The report was introduced by the Leader of the Council, Councillor Lib Peck, who informed Cabinet that there had been a considerable effort in recent months to implement an extensive programme of improvement. The report provided an update on progress thus far.
The Interim Director for Children’s Services, Annie Hudson, advised that:
· Children’s Services improvement remained a key priority for the organisation and every effort was being made to ensure the best possible outcomes for children and families in the borough.
· The challenges were significant and there had been significant staff churn in the authority since Ofsted’s judgement in May 2015. Whilst there were continued problems with the recruitment of permanent Team Leaders, a permanent Director of Children’s Services was now in place and most senior management positions had also been filled on a permanent basis.
· The improvement programme moved beyond Children’s Social Care and invoked change across the whole authority, statutory agencies and external voluntary organisations.
· Whilst progress had been made, it was evident that the quality of practice remained inconsistent. The new practice framework was now being embedded to alleviate inadequacies.
In response to questions from Cabinet Members, the Interim Strategic Director for Children Services advised that:
· The focus had shifted away from structural redesign towards improving quality of practice.
· Senior Managers were ensuring that frontline staff were working within defined frameworks which in turn would make operational decisions easier and more robust.
· The pace of change was challenging but feasible.
· There had been a cultural change within the service, achieved through engaging operational staff and working alongside them implement a clear practice framework. This approach would continue.
· Much of the support systems for Children’s Services were located elsewhere in the council, so the improvement of the service was very much an organisational responsibility.
Councillor Lib Peck thanked officers for their work and agreed that improvement of Children’s Social Care was an organisational responsibility which required a concerted effort from all parts of the council.
1. To note developments since March 2016, including the outcomes of the formal six month review meeting with the DfE held on 30 June 2016.
2. To note the progress which had been made in relation to Children’s Social Care improvements, and also to note the areas of concern that continue and which must be appropriately addressed.
3. To note the feedback from the two Ofsted improvement visits which had taken place since the last Cabinet report.
4. To approve the priorities for improvement going forward and note that the progress which the DfE and their appointed improvement advisors, Morning Lane Associates, expected to see by January 2017 and those which Ofsted will expect to see by November 2016.