The Director of Children’s Services (DCS), Chris Spencer presented the report. The DCS reported that there were a number of areas across Children’s Social Care where performance had improved or continued to improve since November 2018. The Committee were advised that this performance would need to be maintained despite the challenging factors of a system under pressure and continued workforce turnover, which resulted in recruitment issues. However, given all these pressures there was a trajectory of improvement.
It was reported that social worker caseloads were now more manageable, as such morale had improved and social workers were beginning to feel more valued and supported in their role. In addition, weekly performance meetings were being undertaken, which had also contributed to this change.
Members appreciated that further improvements were required in those areas where performance was not progressing or where issues were still evident for a reducing number of children, in order for all children to be seen, assessed or worked within a timely way and have plans in place to support progress, protection and transition to adulthood. The Committee were pleased to note that no children had been left in unsafe circumstances.
The DCS shared his initial thoughts following Ofsted’s visit with committee members and was awaiting the latest outcome letter from Ofsted. He anticipated there would be a number of issues that would need to be improved although the trajectory is good.
In response to a question relating to the visiting of children, it was explained that children were expected to be seen in and out of the home environment and on their own in order to gain the individuals view. It was noted that 76.3% of children subject to a child protection plan had been visited in the last ten days, it was explained that this direction of travel had been improving since July 2018 (60.5%). Member’s attention was drawn to summary of key areas performance as detailed within the report (pages 24 & 25).
Members questioned the number of missing children, in terms of age distribution, the number of times they went missing, from where and the reasons given in the return interview. The Committee requested that these areas be looked at in more detail and requested a report on the impact of these circumstances. Action – DCS/Andy Dempsey
The Committee wished to know how relationships were with the courts, officers explained that there were pressures with the local courts, as they were running at capacity which affected timescales. The DCS explained that he had a good working relationship with Judge Wildblood and had regular meetings in an effort to improve services, however the capacity of the local family court was insufficient. The DCS explained that in order to deal with the backlog and reduce the need to travel further afield, another part time judge had been appointed. Members requested that an invitation be extended to Judge Wildblood, as they were keen to discuss the issues with him. Action – DCS/Andrea Griffiths
That the report be received.