Agenda item

Annual Report of Portfolio Holder for Children's Social Care and Early Help


This item was introduced by Councillor Barry Johnson (Portfolio Holder). Key points included:

·       The report outlined the work that was undertaken by Children’s Social Care within the last year, service priorities and the successes and challenges experienced.

·       The most significant challenges highlighted included fostering recruitment and retention, placement sufficiency; recruitment and retention of qualified social work staff, initial health assessments for children who are looked after; and the financial pressures facing the council.

·       The service continues to contribute to Thurrock Council’s savings; however, it had ensured there was no negative impact on the effort and progress that had been made over recent years. Caseloads and spans of control remained manageable, and the Think Family operating model continued to be embedded and the early help offer to support statutory social work.

·       The report highlighted the importance of quality assurance to maintain and improve performance.


During discussions, the following points were raised:

·       The Portfolio Holder for Children’s Social Care and Early Help thanked staff and partners for their continued support and hard work to ensure children are at the centre of the service.

·       Members recognised the importance of the monthly Development Board meetings which hold senior colleagues in the service to account and which were attended by the Portfolio Holder. The Board reported on key metrics such as the auditing of cases and reviews and provided the opportunity for challenge and improvement. This included questioning data within reports, querying areas for improvement and any national issues. Reports were often forward looking and ahead of the curve.

·       Collaboration and joint working with partners were highlighted as key and was often the biggest challenge to the service. This included ensuring partners were financially contributing where appropriate. 



·       It was noted the Portfolio Holder attended fortnightly meetings with the Executive Director for Children’s Services and Assistant Director where challenge was actively encouraged to ascertain the direction of performance ahead of the Development Board meetings.

·       In relation to Children in Need and Child Protection Plans, Members noted a reduction in referrals which was being monitored closely to ensure the right children were receiving the right support. Multiagency audits were completed to provide a check and balance that thresholds were right across the service.

·       Members queried the progress of Initial Health Assessments (IHAs) whereby it was highlighted that there remains an underperformance issue. Regular meetings were held with Health colleagues, and this was escalated to the Executive Director for Children’s Services and the equivalent for Health services. A Task and Finish Group was established to monitor performance. Members were reassured that children were registered with GPs and provided with any medical care as required. The barriers to the completion of IHAs included parental permission and missed appointments, however the main concern remained Health capacity. The IHA process was monitored by the Corporate Parenting Committee and the Health and Wellbeing Board.

·       Members recognised the priorities of the service; however, these were not attributed to SMART goals and the report did not include an evaluation against these, including achievements or underperformance. It was highlighted key performance data was provided to the Corporate Parenting Committee.


Action: For future Portfolio Holders reports, a summary of the priorities, statistics, and evaluation against these is to be included (possibly a table format).


·       Members requested clarification on NEET care leavers and were advised improvements were made, with the Portfolio Holder for Education involved with the dedicated Task and Finish Group. Thurrock were working with 20 individuals to get them back into work or education and remains ongoing. 

·       In relation to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC), Members were reassured Thurrock tried to place UASC outside of the borough where they have links to family or friends, providing this was safe and appropriate.


Action: The number of UASC transferred outside of the borough is to be provided by Janet Simon.


·       The higher reoffending rates outlined within the rate were queried. It was recognised there were very small numbers in Thurrock therefore any changes skew the data. It was difficult to ascertain the reasons why individuals reoffend, however this was being monitored closely, with early intervention and diversion actions being key.

·       Members considered funding across the service, including the short breaks provision which had previously shrunk due to the pandemic and the cross cutting savings which were part of the corporate budget focusing on vacancies and agency work.

·       It was noted no Social Work posts had been deleted, however there were a small number of redundancies. The business cases were predicated on spans of control and realignment of the service to ensure business needs were met, for example increasing the After Care Service. 






No recommendations were contained within the report. 


The Portfolio Holder for Children’s Social Care and Early Help left the meeting at 8.13pm.


Supporting documents: