Agenda item


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




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


Cabinet received a report from Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services that provided an update on the continued impact of COVID-19 on the Service and the current progress against the Ofsted Improvement Plan.  During the update the following points were noted:-


·       The Chief Executive reported that in line with the majority of local authorities across the country, the service has experienced unprecedented changes in demand since the latter part of 2020. Children’s Services was everyone’s business whether they were elected Members or officers and the Corporate Management Team reviewed on a weekly basis the activity across the Service to ensure they had a good understanding of issues in terms of volume and also complex cases. The Council had also prioritised additional funding to respond to the increase in demand which would manifest itself in the short and longer term; by employing additional social workers and also ‘grow our own’. There was also a rigorous approach to improvement in the organisation and that manifested itself through the Improvement Board, which was externally chaired and was attended by the Chief Executive and the Cabinet Member; this provided deep dive information on the quality of the service not just the numerical indicators.

·       These demand changes included; volume changes in contacts into the service of just over 20%, Strategy meeting increases of 62% in the same period and an increase in child protection plans from a low of 511 to over 730.

·       The general seriousness of children’s circumstances and complexity of casework, particularly in relation to young people self-harming continued to be a challenge. However, the Council was coping with the increased complexity and was continuing to support those most vulnerable to achieve positive outcomes.

·       The senior management team have put in place a series of actions to ensure that the Assessment teams remain able to function and ensure children and young people are kept safe. These include staffing, demand management and quality assurance.

·       There were lots of checks and balances in place such as an audit plan, dip sampling, weekly check and challenge and also improvements in management oversight and consistency.

·       There was evidence to be more optimistic in relation to new staff joining the service. The overseas permanent staff would make a difference and agency staff were also joining in greater numbers than before. However, current and existing staff were working incredibly long hours to maintain the service and the seriousness and disturbing nature of the casework would also have impact. Senior managers remain very mindful of these issues and would continue to provide individual and team level support.

·       Work was being undertaken for the short and long term. Earlier in 2021 it was decided to recruit overseas social workers on a permanent basis to the service and they would be joining the council in the next six weeks. The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment academy programme also helped newly qualified social workers during their first year of employment and professional practice. The Council ran the programme in partnership with Bucks New Uni.


Cabinet Members paid tribute to the work of the children’s social care staff who were continuing to work exceptionally hard through really tough circumstances and also drive forward service improvements to help keep children safe. In response to a question about the wellbeing of staff the Corporate Director Children’s Services reported that there was open communication with the 16 social worker teams and that their emotional wellbeing was supported and they had access to services should they require it. The Leader referred to domestic violence particularly during the pandemic and concerns around children.  The Corporate Director reported that they worked very closely with schools to spot any signs of abuse and take action where required. In terms of managing overseas staff they would provide support to the new recruits and provide training to the standard expected with support from managers.


Cabinet Members welcomed the report.




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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