The Committee gave consideration to a presentation of the Interim Corporate Director of Children’s Services which provided the latest developments on the Children’s Improvement Programme. The programme had been devised following the outcome of the Ofsted inspection in May 2019 to address the regulator’s recommendations.
The Executive Member for Children’s Social Care was in attendance to respond to the enquiries of the Committee.
The Senior Officer explained that phase one of the programme, “Responding”, was being completed and in the next weeks, phase 2, “Strengthening” would start being embedded, focussing on shifting culture to support families at the earliest stages of issues arising. There were nine work streams with 100% of tasks either complete or on target. The Improvement Board monitored progress against the action plan. A project manager was in place to bring forward the programme. The Department for Education (DfE) funded a peer support approach and Trafford was working with Cheshire West and Chester Council focussing on front door services, children’s first response and MARAT (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Team). In September, members of staff had been trained on the Voice of the Child as part of a major drive to engage with young people and their families. The Restorative Practice Approach started to be embedded to build on strength of families. The referral forms had been updated and Liquidlogic (social care management system) had been modernised and a new dashboard had been introduced in order to manage information more effectively. Front line staff had been trained on a new level of needs and a new risk register had been introduced to mitigate potential risk that had been identified. An Early Help offer had been put together with additional support. Child protection plans and child protection cases had reduced. Proportion of Looked After Children (LAC) with annual health assessment had been completed above target. Referral decisions had been made in line with timescales.
The Interim Corporate Director of Children’s Services went on to inform the Committee of work strands that required improvement. LAC cases had increased, although, lately, figures had decreased through an intense assessment process. The number of open cases was on the increase; officers explained that this might be due to Ofsted report making agencies and partners more risk adverse and reporting cases more quickly.
Members sought and received clarification on the risk register, specifically the post-mitigation activity and how related to the objectives highlighted. The Committee requested to see the risk assessment in detail. Members queried whether the Ofsted visit next week would find that Trafford Council was performing according to its standards. The Senior Officer explained that Ofsted’s visits would take place periodically to ensure scrutiny of the improvement process which took place in stages. A new, full inspection would take place in two years.
The Committee also queried open cases and whether there were any common themes. It was explained that a common theme was certainly caseloads for members of staff. However, management was currently working to ensure that workers had a maximum of 20 cases, currently 19-21. Ofsted wanted to see progress and development in the areas identified for improvement. The Committee asked when a permanent Corporate Director of Children’s Services would be appointed. It was explained that the interviews were on progress. The Committee also queried the reasons for such a sudden deterioration in the Ofsted rating. The Lead Member for Children’s Social Care explained that, over a number of years, social workers’ caseload had increased substantially, exceeding national standards and managers had been unable to properly audit children’s files. Consequently, leaders had not had effective oversight of the situation. Following the inspection, the leader and deputy leader of the Council were members of the Improvement Board and a more rigorous scrutiny of data sets available was in place.
Members asked what progress had been made against the four measures in red related to Early Help. The lead member for Children’s Social Care explained that a piece of work had recently been completed to make the Early Help offer more effective through modified levels of need and supporting schools where the requirement did not meet social care intervention. Members also requested to have more information with regard to the Risk Heat Map, in particular, the service performance indicators.
1. That the update be noted;
2. That more information be provided with regard to the Risk Heat Map, in particular, the service performance indicators.