To be presented by Councillor Mark Shaw.
Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, introduced the report. M Shaw advised that he had met with the children’s social care leadership team to discuss how the service had managed during the pandemic. The Children’s Services team had reacted swiftly at the start of the crisis; staff had worked from home and continued to do they best they can to protect the vulnerable children. Home visits were increasing now that restrictions had eased but the virtual meetings had proved successful and provided learning for the future on how best to communicate and connect with young people and families. The recruitment challenge continued and new ways were being sought to encourage people to work for the Service. The Improvement Plan showed a number of positive changes but there were still some areas which required improvement. M Shaw highlighted that there had been an improvement in the data statistics and the recent staff survey had shown that the number of staff who felt well supported, with good engagement had risen from 85% to 89%.
Tolis Vouyioukas, Corporate Director, Children’s Services highlighted the following points:
- Paragraph 1.6 provided the detail of the work carried out at the start of the lockdown.
- Paragraph 1.21 highlighted that the work with schools had been exemplary and the leadership shown by school leaders across the county had been inspiring.
- The social workers had not been exempt from the impact of Covid-19; T Vouyioukas expressed his thanks and gratitude for their achievements during the pandemic.
The following points were raised by members of the Cabinet:
- In response to concern over the number of agency staff and the current percentage; T Vouyioukas stated that the Service was fortunate to have agency staff helping with the improvement plan work. Some agency staff had converted to a permanent contract and the recruitment plan had gone ahead during the pandemic. The Academy was going well, although there had been a slight delay due to the crisis. The number of agency staff varied between 20%-25% with some teams showing a higher percentage. Some teams were more difficult to recruit to but T Vouyioukas was optimistic about future recruitment. Richard Nash, Service Director, Children’s Social Care, added that there were four people in the process of converting from agency to permanent; specific targeted work was being carried out to ensure the Service did not rely too heavily on agency staff.
- In response to a request from a cabinet member, T Vouyioukas listed the top three issues:
- To ensure the percentage of management oversight supervisions on assessments continued at the same pace.
- To capture the learning from Covid-19.
- There had been significant improvement but 100% consistency was required.
- A member of the Cabinet asked if the Service was prepared for a possible spike in the number of domestic abuse cases. M Shaw acknowledged the importance of the connection with the Police and Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust. It was possible that cases could rise when children returned to school in September and planning was underway to deal with an increase in numbers. T Vouyioukas added that it was difficult to predict; some areas had seen a spike at the beginning of lockdown, but this did not happen in Buckinghamshire. Close contact with partner agencies would be maintained in order to gain information and help families as much as possible.
- A Cabinet member emphasised the importance of all councillors being ‘corporate parents’ and that it was vital the ‘voice of the child’ came through all facets of the Children’s Service.
- T Vouyioukas advised that the learning from the pandemic would be applied to current and future practice.
- The quality of the relationship between the staff, social workers and young people is extremely important.
It was agreed that Cabinet should maintain a close oversight of the Improvement Plan.
M Tett thanked the Children’s Services staff, colleagues and partner organisations for their response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Improvement Plan update. He emphasised that improving Children’s Services remained a top priority for the council and one upon which he and the council were focused.
RESOLVED: Cabinet NOTED the service response to COVID-19 (C-19), the report on the impact of these actions the update on service improvement.
- Report for Children's Improvement Plan progress update, item 6. PDF 651 KB
- Appendix 1 for Children's Improvement Plan progress update, item 6. PDF 407 KB