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Agenda item


To inform the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee on the progress and implementation of developments within the “Getting to Good” Journey for Children’s Social Care.



Mrs Jeanette Richards, Head of Partnerships and Improvement presented the Committee with an update on the progress and implementation of developments within the “Getting to Good” Journey for Children’s Social Care.


The Committee was informed that in August 2019 Children’s Services had its first monitoring visit from Ofsted, the outcomes of which were shared with the Committee. As part of the monitoring process the inspectors had asked for information in advance, reviewed case audits and case files and during their visit had sat with workers and managers from the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and Assessment and Planning teams.  Overall the findings reported that the inspectors had seen improvements in the way the work of the ‘front door’ had been managed since their last visit, although they shared the view of the Director of Children’s Services that further work was required with the partnership to ensure that the service was as effective as it could be.


Members were informed that demand for Children’s Social Care assessment had remained very high, with 4,200 children and young people having been the subject of a reported concern to Children’s Social Care over the past six months. In the same period 2,000 assessments had been completed by Children’s Social Care. Issues remained regarding the quality of the referrals received from partner agencies, with particular reference being made to the seeking of parental consent and the impact this had on the Council’s ability to take decisions within the expected timeframe of 24 hours. Mrs Richards pointed out that two thirds of referred assessments did not require further services, which highlighted that large numbers of referrals had been made unnecessarily. The Committee was informed that the total number of children and young people open to Children’s Social Care in Blackpool remained slightly over 2,000 at the end of September 2019, with most of the children and young people being subject to child protection plans or in care. Mrs Richards stressed that the steady increase in the number of children in care had been putting pressure on placement stability and there had been an increase in placement breakdown and in the number of children and young people living in high-cost placements.


A question was asked regarding the location of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team, with Mrs Richards confirming that all agencies had now been located in one building which had resulted in beneficial co-location working and significant improvements in understanding the full picture of children’s needs. The Chairman asked whether some partners were more effective than others in addressing the requirements of the improvement plan, with Mrs Richards reiterating that improvements had been made but that further work was still required. The previously identified issue of a delay in the sharing of information by police was discussed and Mrs Richards confirmed that the Director of Children’s Services had been addressing and challenging the problem with the police.


Discussion was held around the shortage of foster carers. The Committee was informed that an increase had been seen of foster carers applying for special guardianships of the children in their care, which then reduced the number of foster carers available. The Committee heard that a new service manager was in post who was working to raise awareness of the need for foster carers in Blackpool as well as implementing a focused recruitment drive looking at creative ways to encourage new foster carers and the resulting reduction in the number of looked after children.


Within the feedback of the Monitoring Visit, reference had been made to an increase in audit activity. The Committee requested specific details of the audit activity cited, with Mrs Richards confirming that this had related to the Ofsted framework, Social Care practices and the associated audit processes, which had all provided adequate assurances.


The Committee raised concerns over the increased budget required to address the Ofsted recommendations, with reference being made to the large scale recruitment of social workers. The question was raised of the potential budgetary impact across other areas of the Council as well as whether an issue with the retention of social care staff had been identified. Mrs Richards informed Members that the Council had been utilising agency staff due to the national shortage of qualified social workers, caused in large part by the stressful and distressing nature of the job. The successful recruitment drive had been able to bring a level of stability to the workforce. With regards to the overall impact on the budget, the Committee considered the possibility of undertaking a separate focused review of the budget implications associated with the improvement journey. Mr Arrowsmith, Head of Performance and Systems confirmed that only a quarter of the budget had been allocated to staffing costs, with a further quarter spent on the provision of out of area residential placements. He pointed out that such placements were extremely costly and impacted on approximately 50-60 children, with the longer-term aim being to reduce the need for such placements.


[Mr Ashley, Independent Scrutineer for the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board joined the meeting during consideration of this item.]

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