The Board received a presentation, which gave an update of the work undertaken to date, following the Ofsted focused visit and the subsequent actions taken in response to their findings.
Halton received the focused visit to its Children’s Services Department in October 2021 and inspectors looked at the arrangements for Children in Need (CIN), including those who were subject to a Child Protection Plan. Since the findings of the inspectors, steps had been taken to make improvements to the service, including the establishment of an Improvement Board.
The presentation outlined the progress made within leadership and management, areas of concern and the next steps to be taken; and progress made with the quality of practice, areas of concern and next steps to be taken. It also gave information on progress of quality assurance and performance and the activities carried out by the Operational Group.
Following the presentation, Members’ queried the following:
Where was the structure of the management team currently – Principle Managers were operating a level down to cover the absence of practice managers. The aim was to have a visible leadership team to support social workers, however recruitment was difficult at all levels and there was a reliance on agency workers to fill management posts, as well as social worker and practice lead posts.
There was a high turnover of agency staff – yes, a snapshot of the workforce as of May 2022 was given. The Duty and Assessment Team (DAT) was brought via from agency staff and was making a positive difference. Reasons such as pay, distance from home, bridge tolls and lack of administration support were given as why workers left (agency and permanent). Recruitment and retention of staff was a priority and a workforce strategy had been launched and staff development forum had been created to help support this.
Why was Eclipse unpopular – social workers did not favour Eclipse as it could be time consuming to work with. It was being developed as much as possible to remove barriers to the system that would improve or reduce data input for workers. Eclipse was not like the previous system, Care First, whereby social workers could choose when to start a recording pathway. Eclipse follows the child’s journey completely via the mandatory pathways and process re filling of forms and social workers have to follow the required steps to comply with the process and procedures that completes this journey.
Was there support for adopters following a successful adoption – yes a post adoption support team was in place available at any time for adopting parents to contact.
How was the increase in the numbers of unaccompanied child asylum seekers affecting the service – this has impacted on caseloads for social workers, budgets and sufficiency, as they either required foster care or accommodation. The Council has a statutory duty of care and other responsibilities in relation to asylum seekers.
It was commented by a Member that resell of the organisation was required to encourage the recruitment and retention of staff, in particular social workers.
RESOLVED: That the Board note the steps that had been taken and the role of the Improvement Board.