A new scheme basing social workers in schools is already paying off for vulnerable families in the Swaffham area, education leaders have claimed.
The town and surrounding villages is one of six areas across Norfolk where the project, which officials claim is designed to help pupils and parents to get the support they need more quickly, is being piloted by the county council.
An early help key worker has been based at the Swaffham Junior School since January and is working with the 10 schools in the town cluster.
That group includes the Nicholas Hamond Academy and the Swaffham infant and junior schools, plus the schools in Marham, Narborough, Castle Acre, Necton, North Pickenham and Sporle.
Swaffham Junior School headteacher and cluster spokesman Tracey McCarthy said that the initiative had already had a big impact on the way in which schools and social workers work together, as well as supporting families in need.
She said many families who had accessed support through the scheme would otherwise have had to wait much longer for help or, in some cases, may not have been supported at all.
And Miss McCarthy hopes the programme will continue beyond its scheduled conclusion in June.
She said: “There are many families in the area, and other areas, who will benefit from that early help.”
Norfolk County Council chiefs say they hope the initiative will help them to reduce the number of children who are living in social care in the county.
James Joyce, the authority’s cabinet member for safeguarding, said: “Wherever possible children should be with their families and we want to ensure that families in need have more support to make this possible.
“By placing social workers in schools, we hope that families will have someone who they recognise and trust and that this can give them the confidence to ask for help.
“Everyone working with and looking after children has a responsibility to ensure that they are receiving the best education and the best care. It is extremely difficult to have one without the other.
“This scheme gets teachers and social workers working much more closely together for the good of families, schools and ultimately children.”