The council’s children’s services department is expecting a focused visit from Ofsted this year ahead of its next full inspection. It was rated as requiring improvement back in 2016.
The February meeting of the family and children’s services committee discussed the local authority’s annual self-assessment of its social-care services for children.
Councillors heard that the county council’s ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment) Academy for social workers, which is the only one of its kind in the North East, was a real positive and now has a waiting list.
Other strengths included the political and chief executive’s backing for children’s services, the stabilisation of the workforce in some key areas, the creation of the MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) and the fact that the department has been subject to a number of external and internal reviews.
However, there are still issues around variability, with a need for more consistency, and managing demand, while the plans for children in care or who require support need to be improved.
The self-assessment process is supported by an improvement plan, which was presented to the committee at its meeting last Thursday (April 4).
The three key priorities are different to the previous year, reflecting how the service is developing. These are family-focused practice, workforce development and making sure children get the right service at the right time from the right people.
The improvement plan, which sets out a range of actions required to help meet the full list of priorities, is monitored on a monthly basis by the management team to ensure progress is being made and to track the impact it is having.
A report to councillors explained that one of the aspects ‘central to the plan succeeding’ is the retention of experienced social workers, which continues to be a challenge in parts of the county.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service