The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing presented a report on the updated Action Plan following the inspection of Children’s Services in January/February 2017. She explained that the inspection undertaken in Children’s Services in Bridgend focussed on how children and families were empowered to access help and care and support services and the quality of outcomes achieved for children in need of help, care and support and/or protection including looked after children. The inspections were carried out on the weeks commencing 30 January 2017 and 13 February 2017.
The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing outlined the inspection, the sample of cases taken and the individual and group interviews with managers, Members, partners and service providers. The CIW reported their findings on their website, to the Minister for Health and Social Services and presented a report and action plan to Scrutiny Committee 2 in July 2017. A commitment was also made to bring the report to Cabinet Committee Corporate Parenting.
The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing reported that Inspectors had found that the authority had worked hard in the context of the Social Services and Well-being Wales Act 2014, to reshape its services. The inspection found that the workforce were committed to achieving good outcomes for children and families but staff morale was variable across the service and needed to be nurtured at a time of significant change. Bridgend should continue to focus on how they could retain staff for longer and have more timely recruitment of experienced staff. These and other points were addressed within the action plan.
A Member asked what steps had been taken to improve staff morale, were exit interviews carried out and what did these identify. The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing explained that a piece of work had been undertaken on recruitment and retention and supporting social workers. There was regular communication with staff and access to senior managers, a supportive training programme, mentoring schemes for social workers and managers and a new supervision policy to ensure consistency in approach. Caseloads were also carefully monitored to avoid staff being overwhelmed by work. Exit interviews were undertaken and positive feedback had been received about the support given. Most staff left for promotion or to work closer to home.
The Leader thanked the Corporate Director and said that he was encouraged by progress made. There were some outstanding actions and a number related to the development of the multi- agency safeguarding hub. The leader asked for an update on the development of the hub. The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing explained that the only matter delaying progress was accommodation. The team were working already “virtually”. The favoured accommodation had been found and agreed. The District Valuer has visited the property and reported back and paperwork was due to be signed off by Corporate Management the following day. She anticipated that the MASH would be in situ by 1st April 2018.
A Member asked what an acceptable caseload level was and what the split was between tier 1 and 2 social workers. He was concerned that the authority was top heavy with tier 1 social workers who were more experienced and expected to manage their caseload and to mentor new staff. The Head of Children’s Social Care explained that there was no set formula for caseloads but the average in Bridgend was around 18 depending on the complexity of each case. The profile of the workforce changed across the teams. In the safeguarding teams, there were quite a few newly qualified social workers and a lot of work had been undertaken to attract more experienced practitioners into Bridgend. A “grow your own” scheme had been established a few years ago. There had been an improvement in retention rates but there was still more work to be done. The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing explained that it was important to make sure the right managers were available to support staff. She explained that 21 new social workers had started across the service. To date, only 1 had left and she was looking forward to a feedback session with them the following week.
A Member asked what collaborative work was being done with the health authority regarding early help provision in schools and was there also financial collaboration. The Interim Corporate Director, Education and Family Support asked if this was in relation to CAMHS. The Member explained that she was trying to find the level of collaboration between BCBC and who was paying for it. The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing explained that the main connection was with health visitors in relation to safeguarding and there was no financial contribution for this because that was not what was required at that stage. The Group Manager, Integrated Working and Family Support explained that in terms of early help services, there was a variety of resources such as Flying Start where salary contributions were made to the salary costs of health visitors or midwives. The joint working with health was a positive arrangement.
The Chief Executive asked if enough was being done in relation to an outcomes focus. It would be easy to get pulled in to the process of meeting the recommendations and overlooking the outcomes eg sometimes the Inspectorate do not make it clear what outcome will arise from a recommendation. He explained that it was important to understand that something was happening as a consequence of an action being completed.. The Corporate Director, Social Services and Wellbeing explained that the inspection had been undertaken at the same time as systems were being bedded in. The transformation journey was changing practice and shifting cultures. They had “paused” that journey to meet the requirements of the inspection. IPC were invited in to do further review and a report would be submitted on that shortly. The quality assurance process was also being established.
The Leader suggested that a further report be submitted in six months to ensure progress continued to be made.
RESOLVED: 1) That the Cabinet Committee received and approved the updated Action Plan.
2) That a further report be submitted in six months.