To receive the reviewed Children’s Improvement Plan which outlines the actions to be taken in 2018/19 to address the weaknesses identified by Ofsted in 2017.
The Programme Director introduced the report which provided details of the reviewed and refreshed improvement plan one year into the improvement journey.
This review had taken plan in order to drive forward identified priorities at an increased pace and respond to feedback from the monitoring visits that had taken place following the Ofsted Inspection and published report in September 2017.
The Plan outlined the actions to be taken in 2018/19 and included the following:
•Sharper focus on narrow set of priorities.
•Improvement on management and practice.
•Improved partnership working.
•Strengthening of corporate support services.
•New internal governance arrangement.
•Creation of a culture of shared ownership and social work values.
•New programme reporting arrangements in line with Strengthening Families model.
•Attraction and retention of a skilled committed workforce.
In response to a question about where management oversight was focused in order to share practices with each other, officers stated that there was a month by month audit of completion of supervision. It was acknowledged that there was a need to focus on quality and impact of management oversight which Ofsted referred to seeing some evidence of but concluded that it needed to be more effective and consistent.
As a follow up it was questioned whether the dissemination of good practice was evident and how to understand what this looked like. Officers replied that the challenge by Ofsted was that they disagreed with some of the outcomes presented. This highlighted the importance of a regular audit process with the requirement for oversight to be more transparent and visible. The directive from the last monitoring visit was that effectiveness must be evident by the next monitoring visit in February 2019.
Questions were raised on the management of staffing levels, managing newly qualified social workers and the ability to persuade good locums to convert to permanent contracts. Officers advised that staffing levels varied between the teams. Significant additional resources had been put into the service, with recruitment and retention remaining a priority. Across the teams there were 1800 cases at the end of July 2018, this was now down to 760. The aspiration was for caseloads of 20 per social worker and this was now being achieved. It was emphasised that in order to persuade locums to convert the offer must be good, and support in place as well as manageable caseloads.
It was questioned how Priority 7 of the improvement plan ‘Creating a culture of shared ownership and social work values’ would be monitored. Officers responded that this priority was in line with the Councils focus on organisational culture and was formed out of recommendations by the Staff Reference Group. There was an emphasis on talking with and listening to staff who had voiced their desire to be part of a high performing authority. Improvements would be monitored though regular formal feedback opportunities, an annual survey, quarterly checks, staff conferences as well as attention to staff wellbeing. Direct feedback would be the key to achieving the set outcomes for the priority.
It was further commented that this was one of the most important paragraphs in the report and there was a concern about lack of progress in relation to corporate initiatives such as this. In order to track improvement, timescales and the attendance of a staff representative at the next meeting would be beneficial.
The Executive Director of Children Families and Education said that the voice of staff was central to the achievement of Priority 7 and this was clear and being taken into consideration. Relationships were being built and successes celebrated.
The Deputy Cabinet Member for Children Young People and Learning further stated that the Council had to be clear when recruiting staff to ensure that they shared the vision. Progress of staff and management was to be consistently monitored with appropriate support and focus on services as well as challenge where appropriate.
The Chair questioned the transition of interim to permanent staff, the quality of the process and maintenance of management oversight during the process. Officers highlighted that all transitions were difficult but confirmed that the handover was progressing positively.
The Chair and Sub-Committee Members thanked and commended Phillip Segurola for all his hard work which has been fundamental to driving forward intended outcomes as part of the improvement journey of children’s services.
In reaching its recommendations the Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:
i. There were concerns regarding the handover from interim staff to permanent staff at senior levels and whether this was being carried out appropriately, due to the complexity of the borough and in light of the journey of the service following the Ofsted inspection.
ii. That the hard work and commitment of assisting to transform the service by Phillip Segurola, the Interim Director of Early Help and Children’s Social Care, who was departing be commended.
iii. It was important to understand how the improvements of priority 7 of the improvement plan ‘Creating a culture of shared ownership and social work values’ would be monitored in order to assess if intended outcomes were being realised.
The Sub-Committee Resolved to recommend that:
i. That a staff representative be invited to attend a future meeting to provide insight into and their view on the progression of developments for the workforce as described in the Improvement Plan.
ii. Evidence be provided to the Sub-Committee on the progress of Priority 7 in the Improvement Plan through timescales of implemented actions.