The Committee received a presentation of the Corporate Director of Children’s Services on the latest developments on the Improvement Journey: the plan to improve Children’s Services in Trafford, following the Ofsted inspection in March 2019.
The Senior Officer as well as the Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services were in attendance to present the update and answer the questions of the Committee.
Officers outlined the improvement journey so far and the most recent areas of focus. They also informed of the latest visit of the Ofsted in March 2021, the recent review of the Department for Education (DfE) in May 2021 and the feedback received.
Officers informed Members of the positive outcomes achieved so far such as the Ofsted recognition of the strengthened front door access services and children being seen regularly through the pandemic. Officers also illustrated the areas for improvements, such as the instability in the workforce, and the measures in place to address this issue such as the strategy to retain social workers and the recruiting campaign which would be launched this month.
Members sought and received clarification on a number of matters such as the scope of the focus visit. Officers informed that the focus visit had been carried out to determine how well the services had managed during the pandemic.
With regards to the recent Ofsted focus visit, Members asked about practice on decision making and the evaluation of information available to stop repeat requests for help and delay before receiving the right service. Officers informed that a strong focus on access services had led to a significant reduction of re-referral rate from 30% to 19%. Officers added that the Child Impact Chronology programme had gone live. This programme supported the understanding of the impact of an event on a child, to inform the quality of assessment and the action plan.
Members expressed concern with regard to the high number of agency staff utilised in the service and asked whether, with regard to overall staff turnover, exit interviews were being conducted. Officers confirmed that exit interviews were standard practice. Officers reassured the Committee that workforce stability was one of the key priorities. The Council adopted an Investing in People Strategy and work was ongoing to increase the number of permanent members of staff: six front line practitioners had been appointed, three student social workers had confirmed that they intended to remain in Trafford and six more social workers had been shortlisted. In addition to this, sessions were conducted to encourage staff agency to permanently join Trafford.
Members asked about the feedback provided by care leavers with regard to access to health and wellbeing services and how the Ofsted would assess progress and effectiveness of change. Officers informed the Committee that the redesign of Children’s Services had been presented to the Forum on Care for Children. One of the presentations was on the Child Journey Meeting where partner agencies would get together to look at the child’s experience in light of the No Wrong Door methodology. With regards to progress against the Ofsted’s recommendation, another visit would take place in October 2021 to look at Help and Protection services and the annual conversation would take place in January 2022, to agree the areas for inspection in spring.
Members sought clarification about what action was being taken to understand and address the variable quality of service provision. Officers informed the Committee that, although the increase in service demand and the challenges associated with a service redesign, in April, May and June, a good number of audits had been completed. Lunch and Learn sessions had been delivered to address particular issues and packages of support had been put in place. One of the outcome of the service redesign would be that practice managers would have the wholesale responsibility for the quality of practice within the team and training course to support them in this roles had been put in place.
RESOLVED that the content of the report be noted and a further update be presented at the next meeting of the Committee.