The Head of Quality Children and Families, Rob England presented the report in detail. The report provided an overview of the audit activity undertaken in December, including the completion of audits against expectation, the growth in the number of auditors through the rolling training programme and other quality assurance activity. The Committee welcomed the report and appreciated having sight of the latest figures.
The Head of Quality Children and Families informed the committee that the data showed that 23% of cases audited were rated as inadequate. The Committee accepted that in order for the organisation to be lifted from an overall rating of inadequate, it was necessary to move the monthly audit ratings to no more than 10% inadequate. There were significant improvements in the audit completion rates as a result of considerable oversight and any exemptions had to be approved by the Director of Children’s Safeguarding. The Committee agreed that the pressure needed to be maintained until audit process was seen as business as usual.
It was reported that the service had achieved its target of having 85 trained auditors in place by the end of November 2018, though 3 had left GCC in December and 3 had became moderators. This represented continued growth in the auditor and moderator capacity, in addition a small group of internal trainers would be trained in February 2019, who would take forward the delivery of the auditor and moderator development on a rolling quarterly programme. This would enable the service to sustain a good level of auditor capacity going forward.
The Head of Quality Children and Families reported that risk assessment appeared to be an improving area, of which 30% were judged good. However, it was noted that weaknesses in Risk Assessment remained a dominant feature in the inadequate practices of 25%, this would remain an area of priority focus. It was explained that it would be necessary to spend time with managers in order to develop an understanding of the situation, whilst attending to audits in a timely manner.
In response to a question, members were advised that it was not a one size fits all approach, as there was evidently something which prevented managers from discharging their duties and the Head of Quality Children and Families was keen to understand why.
The Committee were advised that the analysed data was discussed with the appropriate teams as a learning tool which proved beneficial to all concerned. In addition, the audit results were discussed with the leadership team and cascaded down to enforce the learning experience. However, it was evident that not all parties acted on the information.
The DCS remarked that until a year ago, there was an unreliable audit process in place and now there were 82 trained auditors. Members were advised that ex-senior Ofsted inspectors had been involved in the training of the auditors and moderators, and as a prescriptive process imposed on staff the service had developed considerably. It was evident that the service was now being audited against a ‘good’ standard and managers now audited within their own teams as this provided more value and relevance which engaged people. As part of this process team managers could now deal with the issues as they arose during the course of an audit. It was apparent that the cultural issue of interpretation had now changed.
Members were informed by the DCS that managers were expected to grade cases appropriately and were urged to err on the side of caution, as any risk concerning a child should be dealt with curiously. It was better to over represent than under represent the risk. The DCS explained that it was an essential area of business to assess the risk, the question was how good were we at spotting it, assessing it and acting on it, this would attribute to being deemed a good authority and there was still some way to go.
The Committee remarked that the main focus was the risk to the child, and the numerous forms people had to complete were in effect a risk reduction for the authority. The committee questioned the order of the risk, as primary the focus should be that of the child. Therefore balanced decisions required a clear process map.
The Director of Children’s Safeguarding explained that in terms of risk, the authority was now very focused and clear standards of risk had been set out for social workers. Based on the Eileen Monroe Report which encouraged reductions in the high levels of bureaucracy within social work nationally, the service was actively looking to make processes and assessments leaner. Officers explained that tools were in place to assess risk but it was essential to target the front line services first and foremost. The Head of Quality Children and Families explained that in the last decade Social Work nationally had become process biased, however this was no longer the case and staff were being retrained to remember the primary focus was the life of the child.
The committee agreed to continue to monitor this area closely.
That the report be received.