Social services need to improve faster, says report
AN inspection report on a troubled social services department has revealed improvements — but not at a fast enough rate to remove an Assembly-appointed Intervention Board.
Twelve months ago Assembly Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas responded to a lack of progress in improving children’s social services by putting the board in place.
Now, after another inspection of the Child and Family Services department, Mrs Thomas has decided that the rate of improvement has not been fast enough and the board should remain in place for at least another six months.
Speaking in the Senedd yesterday afternoon, she acknowledged that improvements had been made.
She said: “I am pleased to hear of the progress that is being made. CSSIW found clear experiences of good practice being delivered by frontline staff. I want again to put on record my thanks to those staff that carry out some of the most difficult work we ask any professional to undertake. The inspection report states that ‘in the majority of the cases examined, the quality of initial assessments was satisfactory or good, with some very comprehensive initial assessments seen’.”
However, she added: “The report evidences some improvements in services, but the judgement in the report is that services are inconsistent in the way that they are delivered.
“CSSIW makes clear that while ‘sound and effective momentum for change’ is now in place, ‘there remain further challenges to deliver and sustain service improvement’. The review team judged, again to quote the report, ‘that the local authority remains at present, uncertainly placed to deliver and sustain service improvement’.
“I therefore strongly believe that it is in the interests of children in Swansea that the order I made remains in force and that the Intervention Board continues.”
The council’s cabinet member for social services, Nick Tregoning, welcomed the positive aspects of the report, but said there was still work to do.
He said: “I am pleased that the inspectors have recognised the hard work and efforts put in by staff across the service to continue the improvements, despite a significant increase in referrals and workload.
“The important thing now is to build on this foundation to ensure these improvements are embedded in the service and for the long-term benefit of vulnerable children and their families.”
The department was inspected in January. The inspectors found that, while the authority has made some improvement, particularly in corporate and political leadership, there are a number of issues that still need to be improved.
Councillor Mark Child, chair of the council’s child and family overview and scrutiny board, said: “I’m pleased to see that scrutiny has been praised, and has helped raise performance. I thank the effort of everyone involved.
“We have seen in scrutiny that the authority still has a long way to go to provide consistently acceptable child and family services. This CSSIW report confirms that, although I think it also shows Swansea is going in the right direction.”
The CSSIW review team recognised the department has seen a significant increase in the workload. Between January and December last year the number of children on the child protection register rose from 151 to 225 and the number of looked after children rose from 378 to 522.
Councillor Paxton HoodWilliams, vice-chairman of the board, added: “It is clear that the department has made significant progress in the past 12 months. This is of real credit to all the staff in the department who have achieved this in the face of a major increase in workload.”
Yesterday’s report follows the release of serious case reviews into the deaths of three teenagers, Kyle Bates, Carly Townsend and Chloe Davies.
Swansea Council’s social services bosses issued apologies for failings in the care offered to the three prior to their deaths.