Warrington Borough Council

We worked with the whole children’s social care system across Warrington for the Crescendo project.

Because of the scope of this project, we decided to employ a more wide ranging, less intensive approach to delivery; we would work directly with those in managerial or leadership positions, who would then go on to engage the practitioners and other stakeholders within their service. As such, we decided to prioritise developing a comprehensive culture of testing and learning across Warrington, and adapted the Crescendo model to develop a local blueprint that focused on embedding a culture of small changes.

  • Before beginning, we collected survey responses from staff across children’s services, as a temperature check of the situation on the ground. We found that:
  • There was consensus across the service that the key barriers to practitioners spending more time with families was the amount of paperwork, admin and form-filling taking place across roles, and that duplication of data entry was a consistent issue.
  • Limited resources, attitudes to change and processes and bureaucracy were listed as key factors that got in the way of change.
  • Positive factors that contributed to job satisfaction for practitioners and managers included being valued by management and being able to see the impact of their work. Factors that negatively impacted their job satisfaction included feeling underpaid and undervalued, though this was more prevalent amongst practitioners than managers.

“When the Crescendo team joined us here in Warrington, there was a widely-held, but little-spoken, belief that there was too much bureaucracy within children’s social care. People were spending lots of time behind computers, and the administrative work had become all-consuming. Individual people across the service had been trying to improve things incrementally within their roles, but we didn’t have the impetus or permission to come together for joined-up working. It took embarking on this project for us to realise that we needed a service-wide ‘call to action’ around making changes to put good social care practice at the heart of everything we do, for the good of the child at the centre.”

Lisa, Warrington Borough Council

Ambition setting

We worked with over 40 practitioners, managers and leaders across Warrington to define the values and principles that need to be at the heart of the service which included:


We then worked with practitioners to identify the barriers in the way for them living this vision in their work, which included:


Making small changes

Staff across Warrington then developed a series of mission strands for their forthcoming small changes, encompassing all areas of the children’s social care service:

  • Rethinking Mosaic
  • Reducing duplication of forms and processes
  • Improving staff retention
  • Creating time to reflect and connect
  • Having effective recording practices
  • Creating clear practice guidance and handbooks
  • Speeding up decision-making and authorisation
  • Valuing staff
  • Being more connected with multi-agency partners
  • Communicating positively with one-another/providing positive feedback
  • Reducing the number of emails

The teams then developed and implemented a series of small changes across the different mission strands. The small changes were led by a variety of teams across children’s social care, including the full Child in Need service and the Independent Reviewing Officers, Fostering, Mosaic and Business Support teams. Each team was given the permission to act autonomously, and they were encouraged to collaborate extensively with one another. A key component to developing this way of working involved encouraging staff to build relationships across teams, facilitated by experiments in co-locating staff and setting aside regular reflection time across teams. Three small changes that Warrington defined and developed are as follows:

Mission strand Small changes Intended impact
Rethinking Mosaic Create functionality for multiple tabs open on Mosaic Reform of the pathway plan and transfer record template Staff are able to use Mosaic in a smarter and more efficient fashion, and not forced to close their current tab in order to access corresponding information Reduce the duplication of tasks and unnecessary form-filling which arises from using over-extensive and unsuitable templates
Reducing duplication of forms and processes Mosaic enabling practitioners to copy recording across to siblings Save the practitioners time that would otherwise be spent typing out duplicates of the same information around the familial household.
Improving staff retention New induction process for staff A new and improved induction process will support staff to feel more familiar and aligned with the values and ways of working of children’s services, and thus more connected with their colleagues, which will mitigate against future burnout and churn.
Having effective recording practices Changing the invite process for Children Looked After review Completing the original invite sheet was frustrating for practitioners, the IRO and admin support; it required extensive emailing and auditing before necessary invitees were communicated with. An updated form, integrated with Mosaic, allowed for a more efficient process, which cut down on administrative back-and-forth, and better ensured that Children Looked After would have a speedily-arranged review meeting, with the appropriate people in attendance
Speeding up decision-making and authorisation Speeding up decisionmaking and authorisation, allowing social workers access to and ownership of food vouchers Giving social workers the autonomy to access and distribute food vouchers ensures they can disseminate essential support to the families that need it
Valuing staff Creating a newsletter to share good news, updates with the workforce If staff consistently hear about the successes and positive work that they and their colleagues contribute to their service, they are more likely to feel connected with their role and their colleagues, and less likely to leave the profession
Reducing the number of emails Develop effective forms and processes to request items such as transport and accommodation from business support Fostering team have introduced collation of their email updates into one weekly email. Reducing the number of emails that are required to arrange service provision for families will shorten the amount of time it takes for them to get the help they require. It will also free up time for social workers to spend on other areas of their role. By reducing the number of updates that are sent and received by individual members of the fostering team, the service hopes to save social workers’ time and headspace, for use on other tasks.

Co-designing a local blueprint

After a period of making small changes, the Crescendo team supported Warrington to evaluate their progress. We found that managers did at times struggle to prioritise the project and that ideas for small changes could be identified by managers rather than practitioners. We also used staff engagement events to empower the voices of practitioners in making small changes, working closely with the Principal Social Worker to build on momentum and excitement for the project. Currently we are working with Warrington to create a local blueprint which is focused on embedding a culture of experimentation and learning through small changes. This involves helping Warrington to develop an evaluation strategy and an effective method to track the numerous small changes being made across the system.