Agenda item

Children's Social Care Update


The Board considered a report of the Operational Director – Children’s Social Care, detailing the work undertaken to date in relation to the Children’s Services Improvement Plan.


It was noted that Children’s Services continued to operate under the auspices of a Notice of Improvement issued by the Department for Education (DfE) in January 2022 – this followed the Ofsted Focused Visit in October 2021.  The Council is required, under the conditions of the Notice of Improvement, to have an Improvement Plan, whilst also operating with a Children’s Improvement Board.


It was reported that the Improvement Plan was currently being reviewed to ensure that it was aligned with the findings from the most recent Ofsted Focused Visit completed in November 2022, along with the DfE 12-month review of the Improvement Notice that was reported to the Council in March 2023.  It was noted that the findings from the latest Ofsted Focused Visit were reported to Members of the Board in January 2023.


The outcome of the DfE’s 12-month review of the Children’s Service Improvement Plan was reported on 14 March 2023; the report provided the main highlights from this.  They set several priorities for the Council, which included workforce capacity and stability, partnership working, practice model and social work practice, and communication and engagement.


Members were advised that the Children’s Services Improvement Plan was being refreshed to ensure it covered the latest findings and priorities as set out in the DfE review.  The refreshed Plan and road map would be brought to the next Board meeting.


The following information was provided in response to Members questions:


·         The possibility of offering permanent employment to agency workers to offer them job security – this was an employee driven market due to demand exceeding the supply of qualified social workers, so they had many employment options to choose from;

·         Social workers were generally a younger transient workforce – this was the case in the region and nationally;

·         Recommendations on ways to retain staff had been made to central Government following the national review of Children’s Social Care completed by Josh McAllister – for example tying in Council newly qualified social workers for 3 years;

·         The ‘Halton offer’ for social workers was discussed – this was being improved and promoted to help with recruitment and retention of social workers;

·         An improved employment offer was also important in such a highly competitive market – neighbouring authorities were also struggling with retention of staff;

·         A local arrangement was suggested whereby social workers had to accept permanent employment with an authority  if they worked there for a certain length of time;

·         The Council was currently operating with a full complement of social workers, with vacancies being covered by agency staff;

·         The ‘Front Line Practice Unit’ was a national apprenticeship programme by the Department for Education (DfE) starting in September and would offer one year training for 4 trainee social workers;

·         An improvement in staff morale was identified by annual surveying and health assessments as well as feedback given to the Improvement Board;

·         The need to have ‘systematic social work practice’ embedded throughout all areas of the service was recognised – this would also help with the reputation of Halton and be attractive to staff who were used to working under these principles; and

·         The importance of partnership working was discussed, especially since the dissolution of the Safeguarding Board.


RESOLVED:  That the Board


1)    note the current position on progress in relation to the requirements as set out by the Department for Education in the Notice of Improvement; and


2)    supports the key priorities and actions outlined in the Children’s Improvement Plan.

Supporting documents: