The Committee welcomed Andrew Ireland, Independent Chair of the Improvement Board to the meeting. Mr Ireland reported on the work of the Board, his role as Chair and the cross partnership aspects involved in the work. In addition, he reflected upon developments made within the service and the performance improvements. He proceeded to highlight the critical areas where progress was still required in order to secure the sustainable improvements.
The Chair of the Improvement Board explained that the council had decided to continue with the Improvement Board and had contracted his services to continue the function. He advised the Committee that he had been assisted fully in his role and the Council had been true its word. It was noted that his role gave him the freedom to meet regularly with the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and other senior management as and when he required. Members were informed that as the Chairperson, Mr Ireland also had the opportunity to visit staff and teams on the ground, in order to formulate his own assessment and opinion of daily practice. Primarily, he had ability to challenge the Council and others where insufficient progress had been made or over specific aspects of performance.
The DCS explained that it was not a case of aiming to scrape over the Ofsted line, the aim was to produce the best service possible for the young people in Gloucestershire. The Committee were reminded that there was a bigger a picture to keep in mind, and the Improvement Board would help to focus attentions on long term improvements.
The key issues were detailed in the report, the Chair of the Improvement Board informed the Committee that there was a clear positive trajectory and the report showed an improvement. He added that there was still some way to go in some areas and there would undoubtedly be some bumps along the way, however the trajectory was looking positive.
Members noted that the Board had reflected some strong levels of concern but were intent on moving forward. As such, the Chair of the Improvement Board had visited MASH, and felt there were strong processes in place, and he was confident they would continue to pick up and improve on the arrangements in place. It was noted that this was the single most important aspect as this set the tone for the business as a whole.
In response to a question, it was explained that the Improvement Board had reflected some strong levels of concern but were pleased to report things were moving forward. As a point of information, Improvement Plans were presented to the Board on a regular basis.
The Committee were reassured that the Chair of the Improvement Board had visited staff county wide, he felt confident in their approach, which would make a significant difference to the service. It was reported where strong and committed management teams were in place this notably had an impact on staff morale.
The Chair of the Improvement Board explained that the Board were making a valid contribution to the process and were gaining an insight into multiagency partnerships. They were also intent on narrowing down the focus, in order to gain traction and acceleration. It was evident that it was necessary to get good driven interim managers on to permanent contracts, as they were a driving force behind making key differences to the service.
In response to a question, it was noted that management had a strong understanding of managing performance, which was proven to be embedded within the staff group and was evident in the Districts. Members were advised that some agency staff were inspirational leaders and encouraged their teams to achieve and deliver the best service possible, which in turn was reciprocated by staff on the ground. It was evident that some agency staff were on short term contracts, which highlighted where the difficulties occurred. The high level of staff turnover in Gloucestershire was a problem to overcome and with the help of energetic and enthusiastic managers it could prove to be a positive experience and employees would want to remain in service.
Officers explained that induction and exit interviews in the past hadn’t always been reported as a positive experience, however human resources were actively working to improve the induction and exit processes. It was deemed a valuable learning tool, especially from those who were exiting the service as lessons could be learnt.
Members were advised that 75% of team managers were now employed on permanent contracts and the aim was to increase this figure in order to stabilise and improve staff morale and confidence in the service area. It was reported that in the Forest of Dean, there were now 3 permanent team managers and 1 agency team manager and these individuals were making a rapid difference to the team and service delivery.
The DCS informed members that all staff were offered an exit interview, even with the DCS if they wished, however the choice was up to the individual. It was noted that the DCS had conducted two exit interviews to date, Members welcomed this approach.
In response to a question in terms of grass roots and partnership working, the Chair of the Improvement Board explained that there were performance indicators for children in care, and the board actively monitored and pursued these areas if they weren’t progressing in the right direction. The Committee concurred that multi agency strong working partnerships would be the key part of success for the Improvement Board and the performance framework would evidently judge how it was working.
Members were advised that the Board were encouraged to see progress being made, however there was still a need for consistency across the Authority.
That the update be received.