The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which provided an update of progress made against the Ofsted Continuous Improvement Action Plan (OCIAP) in responding to the Single Inspection of Children’s Social Care in November 2016 and the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services in September 2019. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.
Following the inspection in September 2019, the Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP) had been updated to reflect the recommendations made by Ofsted. Previous areas that were continuing to be monitored through the CIP at the time of the most recent inspection but had made significant progress would now be monitored via Delivery Plans. The department had continued to embed progress against the 15 green recommendations and drive change against the two remaining amber actions; these had now been embedded in the six recommendations from the 2019 Ofsted inspection. Work would continue in the revised Road to Excellence Plan 2021-2023 with the ambition to have all recommendations embedded in practice by the time of the next full inspection in 2022.
It was reported that progress was continuing against all six recommendations; in some areas, progress had been impacted by Covid-19 and although work had continued, the timeliness of some actions had been slower than planned. Details were also provided of the key areas of work being undertaken in the amber areas and the challenges to progress.
Arising from the discussion, the following points were raised:
i) Good progress had been made with recruitment and retention, although it remained a continuing challenge and of the current 52 vacancies, 40 had been recruited to with the remaining 12 out for recruitment. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, there had been continued improvements in recruitment and retention. It was noted that a large number of recruits were newly qualified social workers who had to have a lower caseload and more support during their first year in practice. A proportion of this additional support was provided by agency staff, of which there were 46 currently in the department. The department provided a range of strong support and initiatives to encourage greater recruitment and positive feedback had been received.
ii) In response to a query around the First Response service, it was stated that this was considered to be the front door for children and family wellbeing and children’s social care. Progress had been made in terms of the Children and Family Wellbeing Service triage and these were now being worked in live time and were using the same three day timescale to monitor performance as First Response Children’s duty. Work had been completed to consider an integrated approach to the screening process across the Children and Family Wellbeing Service and First Response and a proposal had been agreed to mirror the First Response screening process and provide closer oversight of Children and Family Wellbeing Service screening. The impact for children would be early and coordinated responses to align service provision and timely decision making so that children had the right outcomes at the right time. It was reported that there had been a reduction in waiting times and it was the intention to retest the model in place as referrals were beginning to increase once more.
iii) Members were informed that the Inspection Framework differed in 2019 to that in 2016. However, Ofsted would always make recommendations as part of the continuous learning process. Two recommendations from 2016 had been incorporated into the 2019 recommendations and these related to consistency of practice across the whole service and consistency in management oversight.
iv) Updates on improvements across the service took place every three months. A specific audit had been undertaken to consider the quality of the updates and the findings from this would be presented to a future meeting.
v) A review of the Children’s Decision Making Panel had been undertaken to redesign the process and improve consistency. The revisions were due to be presented to SMT on 30 November.
vi) A member raised the issue of staff burn out and how this could be prevented. The welfare of staff was monitored closely and regular staff supervision took place. The Recruitment and Retention Strategy now included work around the provision of support for staff. During the lockdown period, support for staff was shared and it was ensured that the department continued to celebrate the success of its staff.
That the report be noted.