To receive a summary of the activities and findings of Children’s Social Care Practice Week.
The Interim Director of Early Help and Children’s Social Care presented the report which recapitulated the findings of Practice Week, held every six month as outlined in the Quality Assurance Framework.
The Sub-Committee was informed that the theme for the most recent Practice Week was children under 12 years of age in care for 12 month and over, those that had left care and corporate parenting responsibilities.
42 cases were audited by senior managers with the following finding:
•Improvement in quality of decision making although noted to not be timely or well recorded.
•Improvement in effectiveness in review and challenge.
•Improvement in permanency planning although there were some delays in implementation noted.
•Evidence of good partnership in permanency and fostering and adoption service with carers well supported.
•Practitioners had good relationships with child and carers
•Good partnership working.
•Inconsistency in quality of care plans, with discrepancies in quality against outcomes with limited detail on evidence of work that went into achieving outcomes.
•In adoption work identification of placement and long term fostering arrangements needed to be more robust.
•There were some evidence of productive and imaginative life story work but there were inconsistencies in the quality of life story work practice by some social workers.
•Management oversight and supervision remained an area of concern with a lack of regular supervision identified.
•More consistency on sharing of practice and the narrative of tracked cases required.
In response to a query about the reasons behind the difference in outcomes for a child in care less than three months than that of longer term cases, officers stated that different measures were used for each group.
The importance of life story work was noted, observed to be an area that required improvement and the steps taken to maintain consistency in standards was questioned. Officers acknowledged that this was an area of priority but it was also an area where targeted learning and training was required. In order to develop the skills required to produce good life story work resources would be put in to address the gaps identified. Additionally senior management needed to be more robust in checking that life story work had been completed prior to adoption orders being made.
It was questioned how well social workers understood the importance of parallel planning, preparation of more than one outcome for a child that comes into care in order to avoid drift and delay. Officers confirmed that this was a key message following the Ofsted monitoring visit and that assessments with stronger analysis of risks must be produced. Evidence of intervention was not robust and duality of plans were not as consistent as needed to be. As a result further resources in terms of training and development as well as regular audits and supervision were being implemented in this area.
The Chair thanked officers for their response to questions.
The Sub-Committee came to the following Conclusions:
i. The Sub-Committee welcomed the opportunity to receive the detailed report on the activities of Practice Week which had a vital role in the Annual Audit Plan and was a fundamental aspect of the Quality Assurance Framework for Early Help and Children’s Social Care.
ii. The Sub-Committee was encouraged by the commitment of staff and senior officers to work together to address areas highlighted as requiring improvement as a result of case discussions and observations completed during Practice Week.