Presented by the ADCCTO, the report set out the revised Children’s Social Care Development Plan 2018-19 which built upon the Ofsted Improvement Plan. 8 priority action areas had been identified and listed in the Development Plan in appendix 1 for the service to improve upon. The plan took a systems approach where it would involve an annual conversation with Ofsted where the service would produce a self-evaluation which would also be shared with the Committee.
The service for children looked after had not been consistent so the Brighter Intervention Service had been established to strengthen the service’s approach to early intervention and prevention. Workshops were being run to talk social workers through what pathway care plans were good. The aim was to drive out inconsistency so every child would get the same service. Overall, the plan continued to effectively progress on and additional input would be provided where needed to ensure progress remained on track.
Pointing out the summary sheet on appendix 1, the Chair queried the meaning of the numbers in the RAG summary of all areas column. The ADCCTO explained the numbers were populated to show the overall RAG rating of all 8 priorities. It meant the service had improved on their plan slightly.
Councillor Spillman mentioned that he had seen a number of social workers who had not received the support they had needed so he welcomed the workshops. He expressed concern on customer service levels from officers which should be of a qualitative standard. He asked how confident the service was in ensuring this. The ADCCTO responded that officers were expected to treat service users with respect which was monitored through feedback from families and direct observation from managers. The ADCCTO went on to say that standards were analysed from the tone of service users through meetings, letters and correspondences. A quality assurance framework was in place along with a recently recruited post to look into and ensure standards of quality. Collated feedback was also analysed to enable it to be used to further professional development. The workshops for social workers intended to provide a quick two hour learning session that was taught by experts and feedback would be taken from these as part of quality audits to check if it would bring about the improvements the service was looking for. Councillor Spillman went on to ask how the service dealt with negative feedback. The ADCCTO answered that complaints were investigated with some upheld where standards had not been delivered.
Referring to priority seven on appendix 1, Councillor Collins sought clarification in the Ofsted recommendation between the figures of 88% and 53%. The ADCCTO clarified that the 88% was in relation to the care plans for care leavers but the service was striving for 100% and the 53% related to the auditing of these plans which were of a good standard. This indicated the rest of the plans needed a good plan as current plans may not be specific enough and social workers would be improving these to ensure quality. Councillor Collins went on to ask if the plans were put together by social workers themselves. These care plans were put together by social workers working together with children.
Councillor Redsell said that training was good but social workers needed the experience. She continued on to ask how many children did the service aim to get back to their families. She hoped for some good outcomes on cases.
Regarding return interviews for missing children, the Vice-Chair asked why interviews were offered instead of being given. The ADCCTO explained that it was a legal requirement to offer a return interview. If taken up, the service would use an independent company such as Open Door, since children did not always want to speak to their social worker. An interview could not be forced upon children as most were not happy to talk. The Vice-Chair went on to say that if the target was to achieve 100%, then interviews should be given. The Chair added the question of what the service was doing to encourage children to have interviews. The ADCCTO said some children would not respond in interviews, particularly with 17 year olds who felt that they were almost adults and wanted independence. The Vice-Chair commented that it would not be possible to hit Ofsted’s recommended target of 100% if the service was unable to compel children to respond.
The CER spoke of the recommendations to be agreed upon in the report and noted that some of the actions on the development plan were still amber and from 2015 / 16. She was concerned about recommendation 1.1 and asked what assurances could the service give to the Committee that the plan was moving forward. The ADCCTO explained that the plan was a live on and progressed as the service moved along. Some actions were still on the plan as they were still to be developed. The CER followed up by seeking clarification on whether the improvement and development plan were combined to which the ADCCTO confirmed it was.
Councillor Redsell asked what the placement home did when the children went missing. She also referred to recommendation 1.1 and agreeing with the CER, she expressed concern on whether the development plan actions would be completed or not. Councillor Spillman added that the document had not been readable on the agenda and it would be difficult to agree the recommendations.
The Committee were not satisfied on recommendations 1.1 and 1.2 and the ADCCTO accepted that the Committee did not have enough time to digest the plan due to the format. Therefore, she was happy to bring the plan back to the Committee in the next meeting in the new municipal year. The Vice-Chair mentioned that recommendation 1.1 was for consideration and suggested that 1.2 could be amended to be agreed on.
1.1 That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered the progress and direction of travel for children’s social care in completing the required actions from the Development Plan.
1.2 That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted that the Development Plan but considered it needed to come back to the Committee in the future.