To consider the attached report.
The Corporate Director of Children’s Services presented the report and outlined that Ofsted had visited Trafford recently but, because of Purdah, the report could not be published until the 6th of May. The inspection found services had improved particularly in respect of children in care.
The Council had responded to the impact of covid and had actively improved their ability to address issues caused by the pandemic. There were plans in place to address issues around staff turnover in response to the recommendations made by Ofsted around instability within the workforce. However, improvements were starting to be seen with 62% of staff having been employed at the Council for 6 months or longer. Another positive development was an increase in the number of case file audits, which ensured that staff were not given too many cases to handle.
The service had implemented a new approach in respect of child improvement and a child improvement chronology was being developed which would assist with this. There had also been a 12% reduction in care orders, which was a positive development. The Council had accepted the Ofsted recommendation that care plans needed to be more meaningful and the team were working hard to meet that recommendation. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services concluded the overview of the report by informing the Committee that there would be 2 inspections the following week, which the Service were fully prepared for and further monitoring visits would take place in due course.
Councillor Maitland asked if any of the agency staff currently working would be interested in a permanent contract with the team. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded that a small number of staff had been recruited to permanent contracts and meetings had been held with staff to encourage this. The Council were looking to highlight the advantages for Council workers in comparison to agency roles. The Committee were assured that the care review would look at what the Council could provide for its staff.
The Chair asked if Trafford salaries competed with other employers, particularly other Local Authorities. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded that the Council had provided a market supplement, which made salaries competitive. However, for staff, pay was no longer the biggest issue and the service was continually analysing what the biggest issues were for those wishing to join or leave the Authority. Exit interviews with staff had been conducted and the feedback received had influenced the services approach. Agency pay was difficult to compete with, so it was vital that the Council provided a good environment for employees.
Councillor Acton welcomed the improvements recognised in the Ofsted report. He then noted that children in care were not always able to attend review meetings so not always able to contribute. Councillor Acton then asked whether this was an area for development and, if so, what the development process would be. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services replied that there had been a review of review meetings and they were now taking place in a different way, which included strengthening the role of Independent Review Officers. There were also plans to strengthen the meetings the Council had with children, both before being taken into care and in after-care. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services added that performance within the team was continually monitored and improvements had already been seen.
Councillor Hornby welcomed the potential introduction of a Not-for-Profit agency and queried what the latest position on this was. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded that all Local Authorities had signed up to this and once details had been confirmed a report would be submitted to the Committee.
Councillor Welton questioned whether any other local authorities had a good level of performance in retaining staff Trafford could learn from. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services replied that this was a national issue. However, Trafford were doing well in respect of retaining staff.
Councillor Welton asked what the highest level of seniority for agency staff was and what the shortest period an agency staff member would be employed was. Councillor Welton also asked how changes in staff would affect young people. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services stated that it was a big priority for the Service to maintain a stable workforce and Ofsted had recognised Trafford’s progress. The service could not compel people to stay however, the Council did offer attractive workplace conditions. The Council were looking to recruit experienced workers, but it would be challenging to do so.
Councillor Blackburn enquired about the status of interim employees and whether they were able to apply for permanent positions. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded that interim employees were entitled to apply for permanent roles and the Service was trying to reduce the level of agency staff recruited. There were also plans in place to extend fixed term contracts to support children and families.
1) That the report be noted
2) That the Committee are to receive further updates
3) That the Committee receive a report on the Not-for-Profit Agency once details were available.