Swansea Children's Social Services Report Published
The report followed a planned inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales of the authority’s children’s social services in January 2010.
This was to establish the extent of improvement in services since the last inspection in December 2008, following which the Deputy Minister for Social Services issued an Order made by Welsh Ministers under Section 84 of the Children Act 1989 requiring the authority to improve its services to children and young people and establishing an Intervention Board to provide robust challenge to the authority in improving its services.
The authority was placed under the serious concerns protocol following an earlier inspection in April 2007.
The review team identified a number of strengths and improvements made by the local authority over the last year. These included:
- clear strategic vision for Child and Family Services that has corporate and cross party political support;
- ownership and integration of the Child and Family Services agenda within the Corporate Management Team;
- increasing the base budget for Child and Family Services, with greater accountability through a risk management and performance framework, along with a strengthening of straight forward financial information for managers,
- effective challenge to and accountability of Child and Family Services to the Corporate Management Team and the new Overview and Scrutiny Board for Child and Family Services;
- increasingly effective and accountable leadership from the social services senior management team, with a strong Child and Family Services management team, with improving skill sharing and work with adult services;
- clear and visible leadership from the Director of Social Services and the Head of Child and Family Services, with informed and effective input from the Lead Director for Children and Young People;
- sound performance management information that enables the local authority to have a better understanding of its core business;
- a workforce that is very committed to providing the best possible service for vulnerable children and is ambitious for all children in Swansea;
- some excellent direct work with children, with some improvement in the overall quality of assessment, care management and child protection services;
- sustaining the range and quality of services, including those that promote independence and social inclusion.
The review team also identified essential further improvements that needed to be made if the health and well being of vulnerable children, and that of their parents and carers, are to be consistently met. These included:
- review and modernise access arrangements as part of the proposed restructuring plans: this should also address eligibility criteria and their effective use by referring agencies for all children, including disabled children;
- implementing recruitment and retention measures to attract new staff to address key capacity issues, including effective induction arrangements and access to more specialist training for experienced staff;
- introducing and embedding new financial management and sustainability arrangements to ensure more effective delivery of cost effective services.
- embedding the use of performance management information in all teams across social services, and implementing effective quality assurance arrangements at all levels in Child and Family Services;
- securing a full time child protection coordinator to drive forward necessary improvements in achieving consistency in delivering high quality child protection services;
- continue to use robust arrangements to drive down the number of unallocated cases;
- consistency in providing effective, timely and good quality initial and core assessments;
- consistency in the timeliness and quality of care plans, their review and associated care management arrangements;
- putting in place effective supervision and annual appraisal arrangements for all staff;
- further strengthening of partnership arrangements for front line services;
- developing more effective commissioning and contracting arrangements;
- full engagement and participation of all staff in taking forward and implementing the proposed restructuring plans for Child and Family Services.
Overall, Inspectors concluded that services remained inconsistent and that the authority remained uncertainly placed to improve its services.
Imelda Richardson, Chief Inspector said:
"I welcome the improvements that have been made in children’s social services in Swansea during the last year, it is clear that the authority and its staff worked very hard to achieve these. However, the review team has identified where further improvements are still required and it is important for the council to build on the progress it has made to secure these without delay."
For further information, please contact Heulwen Blackmore on 029 2082 3531.