Staff changes slow­ing im­prove­ment in care

Gloucestershire Echo - - CASHING IN - By LEIGH BOOBYER

CHILD pro­tec­tion care pro­vided by Glouces­ter­shire’s chil­dren’s ser­vices depart­ment is not im­prov­ing quickly enough ac­cord­ing to Of­sted in­spec­tors.

The ed­u­ca­tion watch­dog judged Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil has made im­prove­ments since the ser­vice was ruled in­ad­e­quate, but sig­nif­i­cant turnover of staff and so­cial work va­can­cies are im­pact­ing on the “con­sis­ten­cyand qual­ity of prac­tice”.

The author­ity said it re­mains com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the ser­vices.

Jan­uary’s in­spec­tion marks the fifth mon­i­tor­ing visit since the in­ad­e­quate rat­ing in March 2017.

In­spec­tors found there is “strong po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment to and sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment” in chil­dren’s ser­vices, but said the author­ity is mak­ing in­suf­fi­cient progress.

They found the author­ity strug­gles to re­cruit and re­tain qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced so­cial work staff.

The re­port said: “While the lo­cal author­ity has been suc­cess­ful in es­tab- lish­ing a per­ma­nent se­nior lead­er­ship team and a sta­ble front­line team man­ager group, it con­tin­ues to strug­gle to re­cruit and re­tain suf­fi­cient suit­ably qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced so­cial work staff.

“Too many chil­dren and young peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence fre­quent changes of so­cial worker, and this im­pacts neg­a­tively on the pro­gres­sion of plans.”

The in­spec­tors added that the ma­jor­ity of so­cial work­ers have man­age able case loads, are pos­i­tive about work­ing for the county coun­cil, feel sup­ported by line man­agers and “value the vis­i­bil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of se­nior man­agers”.

Since March 2017 the coun­cil has­fo­cused on re­cruit­ment schemes such as Gov­ern­ment ap­pren­tice­ships, hir­ing Univer­sity grad­u­ates and re­cruit­ing staff from over­seas.

But a turnover rate of more than 30 per cent has harmed the “de­vel­op­ment of trust­ing re­la­tion­ships and progress”, in­spec­tors said.

They found more than two thirds of chil­dren ex­pe­ri­enced a change of so­cial worker in the last six months, 10 per cent of chil­dren have had three or more so­cial work­ers in the past six months and more than 80 per cent ave had three or more dur­ing their in­volve­ment with chil­dren’s so­cial care.

The author­ity over­spent on the depart­ment by £9mil­lion last year be­cause of ex­pen­sive out-of-county place­ments and agency staff.

Coun­cil­lor Richard Boyles (C, Blak­eney and Bream), cab­i­net mem­ber for chil­dren and young peo­ple, said: “We are mak­ing im­prove­ments as fast as we can.

“We re­main com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing our chil­dren’s ser­vices and this lat­est re­port from Of­sted re­flects this.

“We know more needs to be done, and we are tak­ing ac­tion to make the im­prove­ments as fast as we can.”

He con­tin­ued: “We know our strengths and our weak­nesses which is why dur­ing their lat­est mon­i­tor­ing visit we asked Of­sted to fo­cus on the ar­eas we know we still need to im­prove, in­clud­ing our ser­vices for young peo­ple in need of help and pro­tec­tion, in care and as care leavers.

“The re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of so­cial work­ers re­mains our main chal­lenge and a key fo­cus go­ing for­ward.

“This is fun­da­men­tal to make sure we of­fer con­sis­tent help and sup­port.”

Coun­cil­lor Colin Hay (LD, All Saints and Oak­ley), his party’s spokesman for chil­dren and fam­i­lies, said the re­port has “nu­mer­ous long-known fail­ings still go­ing un­re­solved.”

He said: “We recog­nise that im­prov­ing the stan­dard of Glouces­ter­shire’s Chil­dren’s Ser­vices was al­ways go­ing to be a long-term project.

“Two years af­ter the in­ad­e­quate as­sess­ment, this re­port re­mains dis­ap­point­ing, with nu­mer­ous long-known fail­ings still go­ing un­re­solved.

“The very high turnover of staff means too many chil­dren are see­ing fre­quent changes of so­cial worker.

“Too many young peo­ple are still see­ing de­lays in be­ing ini­tially seen, with con­tin­u­ing de­lays in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, and re­sponse to, es­ca­lat­ing risk.

“While there are some sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments on the ground, the Con­ser­va­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion must work harder to mit­i­gate against th­ese most sig­nif­i­cant fail­ings.”

Labour group leader Coun­cil­lor Les­ley Wil­liams (Stone­house) said: “The county coun­cil is suf­fer­ing from long term un­der­fund­ing when the Tory ad­min­is­tra­tion saw th­ese chil­dren’s ser­vices as an easy source of cost sav­ings.

“It is be­ing dif­fi­cult to per­suade so­cial work­ers that Glouces­ter­shire is a wel­com­ing place to come and work and be part of a ser­vice which is striv­ing to im­prove be­yond all recog­ni­tion.”

Coun­cil­lor Colin Hay

Coun­cil­lor Richard Boyles

Coun­cil­lor Les­ley Wil­liams

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