The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing presented for approval a 3 year strategic plan for Children’s Social Care in Bridgend.
The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing reported that Children’s social care services in Bridgend are fundamental in delivering the Council’s statutory duties under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 to safeguard, protect and improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children in the County Borough, and which had seen an increase in need and complexity of children and families, since the pandemic, with a 40% increase in contacts into children’s social care. She informed Cabinet that, in common with many other local authorities in Wales and across the UK Children’s social care had experienced challenges in the retention and recruitment of children’s social workers.
The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing reported that the 3 year strategic plan for Bridgend Children’s social care sets out the purpose of children’s social care in Bridgend and emphasises the importance of culture, behaviour and values in delivering that purpose as well as the strategic actions detailed in the plan. She stated that the governance of the plan will be through an ‘Improving Outcomes for Children Board’ and chaired by the Chief Executive. The Board will provide regular reports on progress to the Cabinet Corporate Management Board, the Cabinet Corporate Parenting Committee and the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Board will provide regular oversight, challenge and direction and ensure that resources are recommended to enable delivery of this plan. The Board will benefit from independent expert advice provided by a specialist in Children’s social care who will advise on the priorities set out, measures and progress.
The Cabinet Member Social Services and Early Help in commending the proposal commented on the necessity for the 3 year strategic plan due to the 40% increase in children requiring care. She stated that is a need to build on the partnerships it had developed, to be pro-active to give stability to children.
The Cabinet Member Communities referred to the challenges in recruitment and retention and asked what steps are being taken to address this. The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing stated that one of the keys to address recruitment and retention positively is for the Council to grow its own, through the secondments and traineeships. The skill mix of social worker and non-social work staff was being looked at, taking into account good practice in other local authorities.
The Cabinet Member Communities asked what steps are being taken to break the cycle so that care experienced children are given life and employment opportunities. She commented on the importance of giving care experienced children the same support as people’s own children so that they have the very best opportunities. She stated that within the new Corporate Parenting Officer’s remit and the Corporate Parenting Strategy would be to ensure that care experienced children to have the same access to opportunities as non-care experienced children.
The Leader commented on the importance and success of the work of the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub and asked whether an opportunity exists to include representatives from the Council’s partners within the governance arrangements. The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing stated that the service is at its strongest when it works with its partners.
The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations asked whether the advice of young people had been sought in shaping the strategy. The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing stated that the pandemic had constrained the involvement of young people in shaping the strategy but gave an assurance that engagement with children and young people will be evident in the strategy. The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations was disappointed to note that engagement had not taken with young people on the development of the strategy, particularly as the Youth Council had continued to meet during the pandemic. The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing explained that young people will help shape the implementation of the plan. She stated that a focus group had been held with young people, but it was not well attended. She informed Cabinet that the remit of the Corporate Parenting Officer will be to engage with children and young people. The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations asked whether there is an opportunity to review the plan. The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing explained that there is need to ensure the plan has momentum, but it will be reviewed, and the voices of children and young people will be heard.
The Deputy Leader questioned whether children and young people have access to the services of independent advocacy. The Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing stated that independent advocacy services are commissioned for care experienced children and is a part of the family law process. She stated that when the Corporate Parenting Officer is in place the possibility of including a care experienced person on the Cabinet Committee Corporate Parenting. The Chief Executive commented on the importance of maintaining momentum for the plan and that it can be shaped and changed as it moves forward.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet considered and approved the 3-year strategic plan for Children’s Social Care in Bridgend attached as Appendix 1 to the report.