London Borough of Tower Hamlets

We worked with two teams across the Family Support and Protection service (FSP) in Tower Hamlets

The FSP service consists of teams which work with children subject to Child in Need or Child Protection Plans, and/or where public law proceedings have been initiated. Before beginning the Crescendo project, we collected survey responses from practitioners and managers across the two teams in order to carry out a ‘temperature check’ of the situation on the ground. We found that:

  • Time spent on admin and high caseloads were listed as the key barriers to spending time with families;
  • Attitudes to change, local authority factors, management and time pressures were mentioned as things that got in the way of driving change;
  • There was a broad consensus amongst practitioners that the key change they wanted to see as a result of the project was more effective, streamlined working that would enable them to spend more time with families

“Early on in the small changes project, the Crescendo team encouraged us to reflect on the values that we should live through in our work – things like being honest, creative, innovative, supportive of one-another and open to new ideas. I think just reflecting on these has helped us to bring these qualities to the fore in our work and has formed the foundation of a renewed team culture across Child Protection.”

Syeda, London Borough

Ambition setting

The main values and behaviours that teams across Tower Hamlets wanted to embody in their work with Crescendo were:

  • Honesty
  • Creativity
  • Being innovative
  • Supporting one another
  • Being open to new ideas

In addition, we considered what it would look like if we worked in the exact opposite way, and surmised that that team would be ‘feeling burnt out’ with a ‘lack of hope’ – they’d be ‘overwhelmed’, ‘emotionally unavailable’, ‘siloed’ and, ultimately, ‘ready to leave’. It was important for us to identify the ways of working we were trying to avoid, in order to encourage comprehensive buy-in for the vision the team were putting forward

“The main barrier that was stopping us from spending more time undertaking direct work with children and families was the outsized role that recording and administrative responsibilities played within our roles[...] These barriers caused many of our colleagues to feel stuck in a cycle of heavy administrative responsibilities, missed opportunities for good direct work and burnout.”

Franceska & Tolulope, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

“The main barriers that kept me from spending more time in direct practice with children and families are probably familiar to many practitioners in Child Protection teams; there’s too much bureaucracy, and the statutory requirements of my role left little time for any practice that’s not specifically directed in legislation.”

Syeda, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Next, through workshops we identified the principles that need to be at the heart of children’s social care and practice in Tower Hamlets. This included themes of autonomy for families, kindness, reflection and curiosity. The full vision is included below

values principles

Then, we identified the barriers which stopped the Tower Hamlets teams from working in this way. This included too much administrative work, widespread misunderstanding of a social worker’s role (internally to Tower Hamlets and more generally across partners) and not enough time for reflection on practice and processes. This full list of barriers is included below:


Making small changes

Reflecting on the vision and barriers they identified, the two teams started the process of making small changes by first developing their mission strands, providing a focus by theming together the barriers to their vision. The teams created five strands on which to focus their small changes:

  • Making admin and IT work better so it supports our work with families
  • Improving partnership working
  • Improving staff wellbeing
  • Working better as a team
  • Making sure the child’s voice is heard

We identified a series of potential small changes that we could pursue under each of the mission strands before narrowing down to eight feasible and potentially high-impact changes.

small changes

To start we decided on five small changes to focus on:


We collaborated with the teams to make progress against these five small changes and think about how to measure their impact. Learning pod sessions took place every four weeks – these sessions consisted of a reflective space in which the team could progress their small changes and address barriers, as and when they came up.

Each of these small changes was identified and implemented according to our Mission -> Develop -> Influence -> Grow process for effecting change. This experience supported teams to explore the potential they had for effecting change incrementally, but impactfully. However, the teams discovered that there were some changes that were not in their gift to change, as just one part of a wider service, and would require further sponsorship from across the organisation, particularly from senior management. This learning would inform the development of a local blueprint

“I think the key enabler for successfully delivering small changes has been the motivation and passion from within my team and from management; everyone’s got lots of ideas they want to see implemented and they’re aware of the positive effects that small changes are having. That sense of having regular and enthusiastic buy-in from stakeholders across our service has been so important in successful uptake; we need to hear that change is good and that people want change to happen.”

Syeda, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Co-designing a local blueprint

Following a period of defining, delivering and reflecting on small changes, teams across Tower Hamlets had learnt enough about their service to co-design their local blueprint alongside the Crescendo team. At the heart of the local blueprint were the following commitments:

Everything is about improving the support for the child and family through enabling relationships.

Practitioners need to be enabled to spend more time with children and families and give them the right support, at the right time for them. The two teams chose three pillars for their local blueprint to focus on driving system change:

The two teams chose three pillars for their local blueprint to focus on driving system change:

Pillar 1 – Build better partnerships with external agencies, to ensure effective contribution of all agencies to promote the welfare of the child


Work on a shared vision together with partners by sharing experiences of multiagency working with the safeguarding partnership arrangements in place.

Link teams with specific professionals and use administrative data to inform the matching criteria.

Create a new approach to meetings by rotating roles such as chairing and notetaking, to engender a more collaborative, shared-ownership approach to meetings.

Encourage multi-agency interventions by piloting two teams working more closely with partners by completing joint visits and interventions.

Co-locate services, particularly where there is greatest tension in multi-agency working.

Pillar 2 – Creating better ways of working with Business Support colleagues


Establish and utilise current potential in Business Support Officers (BSO), to better support the activities of social workers.

Develop leadership skills in BSOs, investing in the skills that will support practitioners to undertake best work, potentially through a skills pathway and formal career progression.

Embed BSOs within social work teams so they’re better able to help social workers navigate the barriers in their roles

Pillar 3 – Further develop a culture of learning and innovation led by the Principal Social Worker (PSW)


Create an enabler of learning, in which the PSW attends team meetings and, with the support of the Social Work Academy, unblock things for social workers across the service.

Encourage innovation by issuing formal avenues to social workers, such as the establishment of a small changes email inbox

“By following the Crescendo approach, we’ve gained a better understanding around our service and the system we work in[...] This awareness helped with the development of a local blueprint, which outlined the system-wide changes we need to make to our service to improve outcomes for children and families.”

Franceska & Tolulope, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

“We’ve encountered a number of barriers which have prevented us from fully realising the potential of the small changes project. Not everyone sees implementing change as a shared responsibility, both within social care and partner agencies, and verbal buy-in from senior management has been very forthcoming but mobilising time and resources towards effecting change has been more difficult. Likewise, even when people don’t like a process, there can be a sense of familiarity and comfort with it being in place. We hope to address these barriers by working with the Crescendo team to implement our local blueprint.”

Syeda, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Crescendo and Tower Hamlets are now considering how the local blueprint can be implemented and complement the local authority’s improvement plan. Crescendo are planning a celebration event to thank social workers for their efforts and insights in looking to create change to allow them to do their best work with children and families.