County Council's safeguarding children Peer Review findings published

Published Thursday, 18th June 2015

The findings of a Peer Review, facilitated by the Local Government Association and initiated by Worcestershire County Council as part of its commitment to continuous improvement when it comes to safeg

A team of local government practitioners were invited by the Council to act as 'critical friends' to evaluate the local authority and its partners' approach to safeguarding children. The team visited the county in April to help evaluate the strengths and areas for consideration.

The team spent more than a week with senior managers, front-line staff, councillors and a number of the Council's partner organisations to find out more about the service in order to report back. They were asked to focus on a number of key areas by the County Council. These included looking at:

·         Are the right structures, systems, processes and management focus in place to deliver children's social care services moving forward?

·         Are the current strategies and plans having the right impact?

·         The quality of front-line practice.

·         Views on corporate level support for safeguarding and partnership working, supporting the improvement of outcomes for children and families.

Findings, which will be on the agenda at the Children and Families Overview Panel meeting taking place next week on June 25, are now available. These identify a number of strengths for the Council, including:

·         A clear ambition, sound strategies and strong support across the whole organisation when it comes to our approach to safeguarding children.

·         A committed workforce keen to make a positive difference to children and families in Worcestershire.

·         The county has a number of strong and committed partners and that high-level 'buy-in' is of benefit to the Council's Children's Services.

·         Appropriate decisions by the Children's Social Care Access Team are made in a timely fashion.

·         Leadership at school level and officer level are impressive with examples of good practice.

·         All Local Authority run residential provision for children in care is rated as either 'Good' or 'Outstanding' by Ofsted

·         Workforce strategy is comprehensive and focussed on the right things, with incentives for newly qualified social workers.

·         There are many examples of how the council's innovative approaches are having a positive impact. These include social care pods, the drive in-house social worker recruitment and the Stronger Families programme.

·         Resources are prioritised and there is a commitment to address increasing financial pressures.

In addition, the feedback from the Peer Review team included areas for further consideration. A number of these recommendations aligned to areas previously identified by the County Council. Where this wasn't already the case, actions have been put in place to improve things.

The County Council will focus primarily on four areas, based on the review findings. These look to strengthen our operational safeguarding practices, simplify the 'Family Front-Door' service, review and define the Early Help strategy and put in place a detailed financial plan.

Since the review, the council have already put a number of improvements in place. A Prevention and Intervention Strategy is being developed to replace the previous Early Help Strategy and there is a 'back to basics' plan to focus on making operational improvements to safeguarding practice.

Cllr John Campion, County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "We're committed to improving the services we provide to children and families and we recognise this is a priority for the council. This was demonstrated earlier this year when an additional £4million was committed to supporting the rising demand for this area, pressure which is also being felt nationally.

"To assist with our learning and development we invited a team through the LGA to Worcestershire to look at how we work and to offer their feedback. This valuable exercise has shown us to have a number of strengths in this area, which includes having a clear strategy and committed workforce.

"The purpose of this was to gain insight and focus on key areas we can also improve on. Where this wasn't happening already we are now putting in place clear and immediate actions to do just that.

"Whilst this wasn't an inspection of any sort and there is no requirement to publish the findings, we feel it is right to be open and transparent with the public. This is why we've decided to share the details in their entirety."

The findings of the LGA Peer Review will be discussed at the Council's Children and Families Overview Panel meeting on June 25th. The agenda can be found at www.worcestershire.gov.uk.