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 last inspection and is the Inspector assured that the quality of decision making is appropriate?
The Inspector observed that it takes time for the results of enhanced early help to feed through. As the service improves it may be the case that children are identified who would previously have been missed. A quality assurance framework is beginning to be embedded and there is the beginnings of a culture of undertaking audits, supervising staff and recording which was not previously the case. Proper case recording is of particular importance given the turnover of staff both for present casework and in respect of children in the future understanding the reasoning behind decisions taken that affect them. This includes ensuring legal decision-making is recorded on case files.
What actions are being taken to improve the process of application for foster carers?
The Head of Service confirmed that this was an area of focus with work planned over the next few months to ensure a far more proactive and supportive approach throughout the application process.
The Inspector has indicated that a clear strategic focus with partners is needed. Could she outline what good looks like?
The Inspector noted that under the Social Services and Wellbeing Act a whole system approach is advocated. The authority work jointly with the Regional Partnership Board, Public Services Board, Regional Safeguarding Board etc. There are pockets of good practice but this has to an extent relied on personalities and more secure good practice needs to be implemented. The authority should speak to colleagues in other authorities where this is working well.
Is cultural change or process change needed? Do Social Workers speak to colleagues in health, education, the police etc?
The Head of Service confirmed colleagues do speak to colleagues in partner organisations and she now Chairs the Corporate Parenting Group and Start Well Board both of which are multi-agency.
The Director of Social Services thanked the Inspector for presenting the report and confirmed that the service fully accepted the findings of the Inspection Report as a state of the service when it was inspected in October 2018.
The Inspector left the meeting advising that whilst the Improvement Plan was due for submission the following day it was a living document and amendments could be made if necessary as a result of this scrutiny session.