The Committee is asked to receive the report.
13.1 The committee agreed that whilst there was evidence of some improvement in this process, it was of concern that the number of outstanding actions remained high, and that there was a lack of consistency in the risk assessments. Members were concerned that this meant that there was not an overall buy in to this process.
13.2 The committee was assured that these outstanding actions did not mean that children were in unsafe circumstances. It was more likely that this related to the level of churn and that there was again some cultural factors involved. It also related to managers not tracking actions on a daily basis; managers were being supported to better manage these actions. However, it was stated that it was important to remember that managers were being asked to do a lot and we were asking them to work over fifty hours per week. The DCS acknowledged that there did appear to be a stubborn ‘underbelly’ of improvement. He did however state that it was important to note that there has been an improvement in the number of cases rated good.
13.3 It was discussed whether the level of churn in the workforce was the main impact on the audits, or whether the main impact was on the follow through of the actions.
13.4 It was noted that the main themes coming through the quality and audit process matched those identified by Ofsted. This indicated that we had a clear understanding of the areas that still required improvement. In response to a question it was explained that work was ongoing with all teams to ensure that they were aware of this position and what it meant for them. Electronic message boards were being installed in the localities so that staff could receive real time information.
13.5 The committee was informed that the greatest challenges were in the safeguarding teams. It was important to note that these teams dealt with the most complex cases, had the widest span of work, and the most inexperienced and transient workforce. It was explained that whilst we could not change the workforce structure at present as the council needed to manage the Ofsted process, the DCS was talking to teams about options. A committee member stated that it should not be a surprise that there were challenges in the safeguarding teams; this was where the most stressful work took place. They emphasised the importance of ensuring that there was sufficient support for staff mental health and wellbeing.
13.6 Committee members remained frustrated that in some areas progress seemed to be stalled and some members felt that there was a void between the child and the process. The DCS shared the committee’s frustration, but reiterated that this was always going to be a two to three year turnaround; that this was a business that had thought it was good and then discovered that it was not. He was clear that the council was in a better position than at the time of the Ofsted inspection. As already stated the overriding issue was to stabilise the workforce.
13.7 The DCS informed the committee that the Head of Human Resources was leading on the work to address the cultural issues.