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Still “serious concerns” over Children’s Services

Created on 10/01/2019 @ 09:53
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Care Inspectors still have “serious concerns” about Powys County Council’s Children’s Services Department.

Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) inspected the department again in October 2018 and while they acknowledged that the under fire department has improved slightly since the damning October 2017 report, they were seriously concerned about workforce turnover.

They will continue to monitor every three months and could return to re-inspect the department within 18 months.

In a statement the CIW, said: “There continue to be areas of practice where we have serious concerns.

“The continued turnover in the workforce and temporary middle management arrangements have been significant factors impeding the pace of change.”

The CIW says that improvements since the last inspection include greater corporate oversight of children’s services, development of quality assurance, greater ease of access to the ‘front door’ of children’s services, improved applications for court orders and greater frequency of visits to children looked after and those subject to child protection registration.

They have given four priority areas for development:

·      Ensure there is a clear strategic vision to deliver a seamless service and further develop collaborative working with health, education and the third sector to benefit children and families.

·      Develop better commissioning arrangements to ensure appropriate placements for children who are looked after. This includes improving choice of placements, reducing the numbers of children placed in an emergency and placed without agreed educational provision.

·      Ensure early multi agency involvement in safeguarding and ensure an immediate response to children at risk of sexual exploitation.

·      Ensure investigation of complaints are thorough and in accordance with Welsh Government guidelines.

·      The also commend the new plans to restructure Children’s Services, which they feel can improve the department.

PCC will have 20 working days now to review its existing improvement plan but says it welcomes and accepts the findings.

It says that over the past year more than £12 million has been pumped into the department which is deliberately overstaffed to try to turn things around. An Improvement and Assurance Board has also been set up to monitor progress.

Council Leader, Councillor Rosemarie Harris, said: “We fully accept the regulators’ recommendations, their report highlights both areas of improvement and areas that need further development.

“This inspection took place one year after the initial inspection report of children’s services was published, we are aware that this will be a long term improvement journey for the service.”

Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Rachel Powell, added: “The feedback from the inspectors acknowledges staff’s hard work to drive, support and deliver improved Children’s Services. We had already begun to address many of the issues and have made changes to bring about improvement.

“Since the inspection we have in place a new permanent Head of Children’s Services, Jan Coles, who took up the post in October.

“With this appointment has come significant improvement to meet our targets.”

PCC goes on to add that a service restructure will be in place by April 1 and will provide better support and outcomes for families and help improve and sustain future performance.

The recommendations from CIW will be presented to a meeting of the full council on January  22.

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