Council Unveils Plan To Improve Children’s Services

Swansea Council is developing a wide-ranging action plan and inviting external experts to help deliver an ambitious programme to improve staff recruitment and retention and the protection of vulnerable children. These steps form part of a detailed response following an evaluation by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).

Although the CSSIW inspection was not related to the recent review of the multi agency involvement in the Aaron Gilbert case, the overall action plan will incorporate any lessons to be learned. The inspection was part of the CSSIW’s on-going review of children’s services in Welsh local authorities which highlighted some important strengths as well as some serious concerns.

Paul Smith, the Council’s Chief Executive, said, “Previous inspections have been positive about the strengths of the service. However, this report has raised concerns in some areas and we are taking steps to make improvements. We were already addressing areas highlighted by the inspectors and we have seen a number of improvements in recent months. We have now developed an action plan which will build on our strengths and introduce further improvements.

“Swansea Council is fully committed to making the necessary improvements to ensure vulnerable children get the support they need. Our staff work really hard in one of the most challenging areas of social work. We value the great work they do and we want to provide them with more support to help them do their jobs day-to-day. To help push forward our programme of improvements we have invited the Social Services Improvement Agency to work with us so we can draw on their expertise to support our staff and achieve our ambition.”

The draft report is not expected until next month, but the inspectors have said the Council has an extensive range of well-regarded services including fostering, adoption, services for children with disabilities, accommodation for children in care and support for families. Also, the Council has dedicated, skilled and experienced staff and training is well regarded.

However, the inspectors had concerns about the service meeting some of its statutory requirements and targets, robustly protecting children, allocating work to avoid backlogs, providing sufficient guidance and support to inexperienced staff and recruitment and retention of social workers.

Recent improvements include reducing the time it takes to review child protection cases, reducing the number of looked-after children who have to change placement or school, employing experienced social workers via private agencies, recruiting staff from Germany and introducing 121 salaried foster carers to care for vulnerable children.

Cllr Meryl Gravell, spokesperson for the Social Services Improvement Agency, which is located within the WLGA, said: “The agency will support Swansea’s improvement journey over the forthcoming period and we will be marshalling all the experience within local government to assist Swansea overcome their difficulties whilst building on their strengths.”