Venue: Council Chamber, County Hall - County Hall. View directions
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Count Councillors G Williams, S Davies, J Gibson-Watt, P Pritchard, K Roberts-Jones, A Williams, J Williams, M Williams and Portfolio Holder R Powell.
D Moultrie (Lead Inspector – Care Standards Wales), A Bulman (Director of Social Services), J Coles (Head of Children’s Services), J Harris (Strategic Programme Manager – Children’s), D Jones (Professional Lead – Legal) and E Patterson (Scrutiny Officer).
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of interest from Members.
No declarations of interest were received.
Declarations of Party Whips
To receive disclosures of prohibited party whips which a Member has been given in relation to the meeting in accordance with Section 78(3) of the Local Government Measure 2011.
(NB: Members are reminded that under Section 78 Members having been given a prohibited party whip cannot vote on a matter before the Committee.)
No declarations of Party Whips were received.
To receive a presentation from Ms D Moultrie, Lead Inspector CIW on the Inspection of Children’s Services.
· CIW Inspection Report
· Scrutiny briefing
The Inspector presented the report drawing attention to the hard work that had been undertaken by staff and acknowledged the assistance with arrangements for the most recent inspection.
She outlined those areas where improvements had been made since the last inspection, focussed on the areas where priority actions were needed and noted there were other actions needed which were included within the body of the report.
The priority areas include:
· A clear strategic vision
· Improving strategic relationships with partners
· Improving complaints process
· Development of commissioning and practice for children’s accommodation to enable:
o Children to be looked after closer to home
o Fewer children placed without educational provision
· Ensure safeguarding process is multi-agency
· Ensure immediate multi-agency response to safeguard children at risk of CSE
An overview of the findings showed:
· The authority must develop a clear strategic direction and effectively translate this into a coherent operational framework for delivering services
· There was no common understanding of the approach to develop services, including preventative services, shared with the workforce and key partners
· The continued turnover in the workforce and temporary middle management arrangements have significantly impacted on the pace of change
It was the Inspector’s view that plans to restructure the service, implement the signs of safety approach and establish a cohesive strategy around early help and family support should impact positively on several of the areas for action identified. However, it was not the role of the inspectorate to have a view specifically on the restructure nor on which safety model is adopted.
The Inspector concluded that since the last inspection the service had achieved significant improvements of certain areas of practice and some improvement in other areas but there continue to be other areas of practice where they have serious concerns.
Why does the Inspection Report not reference the increase in Children Looked After in Powys?
The Inspector advised that this was not included within the report as Children Looked After numbers do fluctuate but that when the Inspection team had asked Judges if cases were coming before the Courts for Care Orders which did not need to be and the Judges had indicated that this was not the case. A question arises as to what would be the level of Children Looked After if more early and edge of care help was available. However, there has been an increase in Children Looked After across Wales and the numbers are higher than in England. The availability of early help does not directly equate to the number of Children Looked After.
The Head of Service advised that in January 2018 there had been 205 Children Looked After and in December 2018 this had risen to 235. There had been an increase in Children Looked After on publication of the initial inspection report as those cases of children who had been left in dangerous situations for too long were dealt with.
Is the increase in the number of Children Looked After partly due to the authority being risk adverse since the ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
To consider the Children’s Services Improvement Plan.
The Head of Children’s Services gave a presentation outlining the work that had been undertaken since the inspection in October 2018 and the Children’s Services Improvement Plan December 2018 – March 2021.
· A clear vision had been circulated to staff and through the restructure it will be clear to staff that appropriate intervention should take place at the earliest time.
· A staff restructure is taking place
· The ‘Signs of Safety’ model of practice is being introduced
· The service will embed a practice of working with rather than doing to families.
· There will be a focus on early intervention and prevention and ensuring the right support is available at the right time.
· Recent performance data demonstrates sustained improvement over the last three months.
· The complaints process has been strengthened and the service is working with local providers in Powys to make better use of local placements although some of these are niche providers.
· There are 82 Children Looked After who are placed out of county. Work has been undertaken to bring these children back to Powys and the first cohort has returned some to a Powys foster placement and some back home with appropriate support. A second cohort has been identified.
· Further Corporate Parenting training has been provided.
· Placement Officers have been moved from Social Work teams to the Commissioning Unit which has improved placement commissioning and monitoring.
· The restructure includes an apprenticeship post for a careleaver.
· ‘What good looks like’ training has been undertaken
· Multi-agency strategy meetings are now taking place much more promptly unless it is a complex case
· Analysis has been undertaken as to why so many cases are closed after assessment with the intention of ensuring a more appropriate level of cases sent for assessment
· All children on Placement Orders and Care Orders placed at home have been reviewed to identify if it would be appropriate to seek to revoke an order
· The Children Leaving Care Fora has been reinstated with regular meetings arranged which the Head of Service will attend
· Access to Community Care Inform has been provided to all Social Workers to enable them to ensure their practice is up to date
A national report on fostering has recently been published which showed that almost half of foster carers would not recommend fostering.
Much work needs to be undertaken to attract and support foster carers. Work is being undertaken to provide a national level of support for foster carers. The service recognise this is an area that needs investment and there is much work to do.
One third of Children Looked After out of county is alarming. Children should not be placed far from home.
This number is too high and work is taking place to address this. It can be difficult once children are placed away and settle they may express a desire to remain in the placement. Children that are placed away are usually older and can clearly articulate their wishes.
Do Independent Reviewing Officers effectively undertake quality assurance? Is it necessary to ... view the full minutes text for item 12.