Agenda item


Cabinet received a report which provided an update on the continued impact of COVID-19 on the Service and the current progress against the Ofsted Improvement Plan.




That the continued impact of COVID-19 on the Service and the current progress against the Ofsted Improvement Plan be noted.


M Shaw, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, introduced the report which detailed the continued impact of COVID-19 on children’s services and the current progress against the Ofsted Improvement Plan.  COVID-19 continued to be a significant challenge to manage on all levels; however, the service’s response to ensure children and young people were kept as safe as possible continued to be of paramount importance.  The impact of COVID-19 had led to changes in demand that continued to be unpredictable.  This coupled with an increase in the complexity and seriousness of situations that children and young people found themselves in, was having a significant impact on workloads.


The challenges created by increases in demand and which required the Council’s intervention had continued throughout the latter part of 2020 and in November specifically, the service had experienced a significant rise in demand creating further pressure on the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), Assessment and Help and Protection Teams.  In order to manage the changes in workload safely, the service had moved resources to support the ‘front door’ and had moved casework to create capacity. The Senior Management Team (SMT) had remained focused on ensuring that staff were supported and that standards in practice maintained. This had been achieved to date in spite of the uncertainty all local authorities face in the current environment.


Data confirmed the changes that the service was experiencing but what was more pronounced were the changes in ‘seriousness’ of incidents involving children and young people. Overall, there had been a 15% increase in volume of work.  The volume of the work in Children’s Social Care did not follow a uniform pattern and there had been some significant peaks in activity.


This increase at this point in time coupled with significant changes in casework that was complex such as sexual abuse, mental health and substance misuse, had resulted in a disproportionate impact on the social work time required to manage each case. The issue of ‘seriousness’ and peaks of activity was highlighted through 93 Initial Child Protection Case Conferences ((ICPCC) held in November, compared to 35 and 25 respectively in October and September.


Despite the pressures in the service during the last few months, work on the Improvement Plan had continued.  The stability of and steady improvement in the Help and Protection Teams had largely enabled the actions against the quality of assessments and plans to move from red to amber.  The Assessment Team Managers, despite being under significant pressure had demonstrated strong management oversight and were maintaining good performance in relation to key performance indicators for Section 47 enquiries.  For example, despite increases in volume 85% of all Initial Child Protection Case Conferences are held within timescales, against a target of 78%.  The increase in volume of Section 17 assessments had led to a decrease in performance in timeliness, with quarter 3 data showing the rate completed on time had fallen from 84% to 72%.  Actions were in place to address this which would lead to performance improvement.


The impact on staff of having to frequently deal with disturbing information involving children and young people, consistently working very long hours responding to children in crisis and the overall increase in volume translating into higher caseloads, was significant.  There continued to be a strong management focus on staff well-being.


Members sought additional information and were informed:

·                    On the work that had been done to re-invigorate the Corporate Parenting Panel.

·                    On the work of the Christmas gift team – led by Councillors Irwin, Waite and Shaw – that had assisted children and families in crisis over the Christmas period through raising over £30k and delivering more than 22,000 presents to needy families.

·                    On how social care staff were managing in the current work environment.

·                    That people referring to the service had increased by 237% from August 2019 to August 2020.

·                    That one of the ways that the service had improved and was operating differently/proactively was in the different approaches taken to connect with young people.


Members were thanked by Officers for the interest and the increased management oversight being given to the service.


RESOLVED that the continued impact of COVID-19 on the Service and the current progress against the Ofsted Improvement Plan be noted.

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