To receive a presentation from the Corporate Director of Children’s Services.
The Corporate Director of Children’s Services informed the Committee that the next two items could be taken together with the slides being around the latest visit by Ofsted and the second item relating to the overall journey since the inadequate rating. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services then went on update the Committee on the feedback received at the last visit from Ofsted. Ofsted had identified areas of improvement across all aspects of the service. The Councils had begun the improvement journey from a poor original position following the inadequate rating which instigated the creation of an improvement plan looking at fixing the problem areas as quickly as possible.
The Corporate Director of Children’s Services spoke of how the Council had moved from the delivery of the improvement plan to envisioning of an ambition of where the Council wanted to be. This transition had involved a full review of all elements of children’s services and data gathering and analysis played a key role in recognising what was needed for Trafford to deliver that ambition for Children’s services. The Covid 19 pandemic had actually aided the Council in progressing along the improvement journey as it required the service to build strong relationships with partners in education and health that had not been their previously, which furthered the development of the holistic approach to children’s services Trafford was transitioning towards.
The Director of Early Help and Children's Social Care spoke to the Committee about children’s social services and the improvements that had been made within the practices. The Committee were informed of the work that had gone into the creating a stable leadership team within the service. While there was a higher level of interim workers than the council would want many had worked at the council for many months to a point where they also provided stability within the service. The Director of Early Help and Children's Social Care expressed to the Committee that despite the progress Trafford had made within the service there was still a lot of work to be done.
The Corporate Director of Children’s Services then provided the Committee with the picture of services across the Northwest. Out of the 23 local authorities across the region 10 Councils had received Ofsted ratings of requires improvement and 5 had been rated as inadequate. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services assured the Committee that she had not raised those Ofsted ratings to make Trafford seem better but for the Committee to understand the context that Trafford were on their improvement journey in.
Councillor Bennett asked whether the difficulties in recruiting qualified social workers was hindering the delivery of the improvement plan. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded to Councillor Bennett that staffing had been a huge issue at first but Trafford had started to see an improvement in the levels of stability within the workforce. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services spoke of the role the training programmes, which were available to all staff including agency staff, had been in achieving stability within the workforce, as staff members had responded to the investment in them by staying in post longer. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services then informed the Committee of work being done across London’s local authorities where they had pledged to not go above certain pay thresholds and not poach staff from each other. Work was ongoing across the Northwest with a view to developing a similar pledge. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services concluded her response by expressing the importance of appreciating workers and ensuring they realised they were valued. The Director of Early Help and Children's Social Care added that there had been a good level of conversion of agency to permanent staff with the improved opportunities to progress into advanced practitioner rolls having had an impact in people making that decision.
Councillor Maitland asked what the barriers were that prevented the service achieving some of the goals within the plans. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded that there had been a number of new managers recruited within the service and it was about imbedding the value of audits to develop staff they way to record information effectively to bring about improvement through support. Many managers had feedback that it was finding the time to do audits, so the challenge was to enable them to have that time. The Director of Early Help and Children's Social Care added that the plan to achieve this was for mangers from across the service to support each other to be able to carry out effective audits.
Councillor Maitland asked whether The Corporate Director of Children’s Services was confident of the outcome if another inspection was to happen. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services stated that she was confident Trafford was no longer inadequate and that they had very strong foundations, although there were still issues around consistency of practice across the service. During the most recent visit the front door, which was previously seen as being inadequate, was seen as having exceptional elements.
Councillor Hornby asked what progress had been made in developing a not-for-profit agency within Greater Manchester. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services stated that There had been conversations across the Northwest authorities to identify the current position. The next stage was to look at the possible shape and logistics for the organisation.
Councillor Blackburn noted the report mentioned the Complex Need Team would require external support and asked for details around what that support would be. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services responded that it was a specialist team and work was required to understand what skill set was required for the team in terms of both health and social care. The Council were wanting to bring in external people to provide challenge and expertise to ensure that Trafford got the model of the team right.
Councillor Blackburn asked whether those rolls would be short or permanent. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services explained that there was a team in place, but the work referred to in the report was a review of that team to ensure it had the right make up of staff going forward.
RESOLVED: That the reports be noted.