Agenda item


The report of the Interim Strategic Director of Children’s Services (Document “P”) presents the most recent information on the workload of Children’s Social Work Teams and updates Members on key pressures on the service. The workload analysis is based on activity up to 30th September 2018.


Recommended -


That the Committee consider further reports in the 2018-19 work programme to ensure the continuation of safe workloads and practice into the future given the current financial climate.


            (Di Drury – 01274 437077)




(1)       That in view of the extremely disappointing Ofsted Inspection outcome further reporting on workloads of children’s social care services be incorporated into the feedback reports from the Improvement Board.


(2)       That the results of the staff survey be circulated to Members via email as soon as the information is available.


Action:           Interim Strategic Director Children’s Services/Overview and Scrutiny Lead


                                                                        (Di Drury – 01274 437077)


The report of the Interim Strategic Director of Children’s Services (Document “P”) presented the most recent information on the workload of Children’s Social Work Teams and updated Members on key pressures on the service. The workload analysis was based on activity up to 30th September 2018.


The Deputy Director Children’s Social Care reported that:


·         There had been an incremental increase in demand which was putting pressure on services.

·         There were now 290 Social Workers employed by children’s services of which 143 Social Workers (132 full time equivalents) were located in Locality Child and Family or Assessment Teams (including agency workers) where the demand was. In addition there were 32 Community Resource Workers (CRWs) ( 27 full time equivalents)  across the service (mainly in Through Care service).

·         At 30th September 2018 there were 33 agency Social Workers and 1 agency CRW being utilised within the social work services. The length of time agency Social Workers had been in post was 10; under 3 months, 20; 3 to 5 months, 2; 6 to 11 months, 1; 12 months or more.   

·         The average caseload per full time equivalent (FTE) Social Worker was 19.0 cases, an increase from 17.9 in September 2017. Social Workers took on a mixed caseload of child protectionand children in need work. The average caseload per full time equivalent Community Resource Worker was 14.2 (compared to 12.2 in September 2017). The most recent published figures from the DfE (2016-17) showed a national average of 17.8 cases per FTE social worker and a regional average of 18.1 cases.

·         The aspiration was for experienced Social Workers to have a caseload of 18 and 16 for newly qualified social workers.

·         The Service employed a number of agency workers to deal with demand; but  the service needed to retain experienced Social Workers.

·         Experienced Social Workers had caseloads far larger than they should have and the department was being challenged to bring that down; the Service was continuing to work hard to bring caseloads down; the increase in demand reflected the national increase.

Members made the following comments:


·         Concerned not only about the safety of children but the mental health and wellbeing of social workers particularly experienced social workers who had a high caseload; when would the caseload be down to where it should be?

·         Were existing social workers made aware that new social workers were being recruited and that caseloads would be coming down?

·         Was it appropriate for newly qualified social workers to have a caseload of 16?

·         This Committee was criticised at Council for not undertaking an in depth review on Children’s Social Care Services; this Committee had asked toestablish a task and finish group to look into ways of improving recruitment and retention of Social Workers and report back to the Committee in December 2018 but no work had been undertaken to take that forward.

·         Concerned at the significant shortfall in experienced social workers; 18 new social workers had been recruited and 12 were in the pipeline, what level of experience did they have?

·         Did the Service have a breakdown of the reasons why a Social Worker left? Why was this information not in the report.

·         The committee felt let down and disappointed at not being provided with the information on how much strain the service was under.

·         The way the Committee was looking at this sort of issue was not working; there was an expectation to look at workloads of Children’s Social Work Services but it felt like a tick box exercise rather than a thorough scrutiny; the Committee needed to consider appropriate ways of scrutinising and the information it wanted; what happened with the inspection should not happen again.

·         The Committee had asked for information on staff surveys a number of times; the Labour Group had undertaken a staff survey, why was that not available to this Committee as it was vitally important information, needed that information to do a proper scrutiny; when you compare positive improvement in July then look at the Ofsted report in September it looks as if the Committee had not been given information it was entitled to.

·         The Committee needed to be given factual and full answers by officers.

·         When would the service be in a position to increase social worker pay?

·         Can the unions be involved to ascertain what more could be undertaken to help staff with their needs?

·         The government was placing an emphasis on child protection and partnership working; partnership working between social workers and schools was key; how was the service monitoring impact of the strains on schools? Social Workers were turning up at school without correct documentation; teachers were driving the process; Social Workers were attending schools unprepared without having read the documentation relating to the child, putting additional pressure on schools; schools and social workers needed to have mutual confidence in each other; needed to ensure these sort of cases were being monitored and there should be clear channels of communication so that schools could report concerns back to the service.

·         What was the stability of placements? How many special guardianship orders had broken down and what impact did that have?

·         There needed to be a new era of openness and transparency; why did officers not alert the Committee to the outcome of the meeting at Shirley Manor Primary which provided feedback from those who work with the service and  officers responded to criticism?

·         Ofsted stated the service failed and we failed as a committee; the committee had not been given the opportunity to give a bigger contribution to put things right.

·         How was the situation in terms of recruiting foster carers?

·         Were children becoming subject to care orders a second time higher in Bradford than nationally?

·         Were there any further cuts to Prevention and Early Help Service?

·         Needed to look at the state and quality of services being provided and not just the number of Social Workers.

·         What would happen after the Ofsted monitoring had finished?

In response to Members comments it was reported that:


·         Caseloads for newly qualified social workers would be a maximum of 16; there had been an agreement to recruit a further 18 Social Workers to Child and Family Teams which would reduce caseload numbers; it was not easy to recruit and retain experienced Social Workers.

·         The Improvement Board was looking at improving the number of social workers to work with newly qualified Social Workers and recruit a further 14 Managers; needed to get the ratio of 1 Team Manager to 8 Social Workers which would help in reducing caseloads and stress levels.

·         The Service was successful in recruiting 12 social workers this week who should be with the service in the next couple of months to ease the pressure; caseloads were being monitored to ensure staff were coping and to ascertain what else could be undertaken to support them.

·         The service had a far higher level of agency workers; if caseloads became unsafe agency staff would be employed to alleviate some of that pressure; the service needed permanent managers, supervisors and social workers.

·         The type of cases that were allocated to newly qualified social workers were not as complex and they would not hold any care proceeding cases; newly qualified had a 10% reduction in caseload which was a national standard.

·         In line with the recommendation of the Committee in July the DFE were written to, to explain the concerns in the difficulty in recruiting and retaining social workers, Wakefield’s and Kirklees Ofsted judgements and their pay scales were affecting Bradford’s vacancies for social workers and asking National Government for a National Pay Scale for Social Workers; in June 2018 the service had 30 vacancies, the gap of the number of vacancies had been plugged but there was still a gap of experienced social workers; Task and Finish Group would have considered that issue.

·         The Service had 25 experienced agency staff who would continue to work for the authority until they were required.

·         Out of the 12 social workers that were recruited recently, 6 were experienced and 6 were new; some were agency staff that were already working for the authority.

·         Three more Social Workers had given their notice during this week and were going to work for Leeds.

·          An annual staff survey was undertaken which had a closing date of 20 December which asked staff about working conditions, pay, how well they were supervised etc, could arrange for the results of the survey to be brought to this Committee; exit interviews were also undertaken with staff, needed to increase the number of exit interviews being held; exit interviews were not being routinely completed.

·         Unless Social Worker pay was enhanced the Service would struggle to retain Social Workers; needed to look at starting salary to ensure recruiting the best social workers; a retention allowance was brought in and the Service was working with the Finance Department to see what could be undertaken in terms of pay scales.

·         Staff were already talking to their unions and those discussions were being fed back to management.

·         Child safeguarding was the domain for all partners; it was extremely important to work in partnership with all concerned.

·         Were not aware of special guardianship orders breaking down, it was usually children placed in care settings where relationships broke down; teenagers in care ended up in a number of placements which was an area that needed looking at.

·         There was an going dialogue with head teachers through forums and area presentation panels.

·         Fostering services were in a stronger position, recruited more Foster Carers.

·         The national average of children subject to protection plans for the second time was 6.1%, Bradford was higher than the national average at 8%.

·         There was no plans to reduce the Prevention and Early Help Service; team went live in October.

·         Social Worker Apprenticeship route would be going live next year.

·         The number of social workers employed by the service and the number of vacancies would be looked at by the Improvement Board.

·         The service would be having Ofsted monitoring reports every three months.

·         The Service would also have another Ofsted inspection after two years, if no longer judged inadequate the improvement notice would not be removed; work of the Improvement Board would continue until Secretary of State was satisfied that the improvements would be sustained.

The Interim Strategic Director, Children’s Services emphasised that any Social Worker leaving would be speaking to her first to ascertain what the reasons were for leaving and to see if  the issues that were affecting their decision could be changed; the Service was looking at other ways of making exit interviews more accessible. She also reported that officers would work in openness and provide the information requested by Members and that there would be a number of people scrutinising the Service’s improvement journey.


Financial information relating to Children’s Social Care was tabled at the meeting, it was reported that:


·         Children Social Care Services had a full year net budget of £60.1m. The 2018-19 financial forecast for the service reported as at the end of quarter 2 (September 2018) an overspend of £3.8m.

·         The Deputy Directors office net budget included £0.4m of non employee budgets (insurance premium, ICT software license cost; these budgets were forecasted to breakeven in 2018-19.

·         Prevention and Early Help support included the £0.5m allocated by the Council for two financial years to support more key worker and Prevention worker posts; the new structure for Prevention and Early Help was implemented in October 2018.

·         Social Work Services – the Assessment function included three assessment teams and the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH); the budget overspend related to employee cost due to use of agency staff; there were three Children and Young People teams who had a combined overspend of £0.5m due to the use of agency staff; the employee overspend was partially offset by £0.3m forecasted underspend on the £1.0m Legal/Court fees budget.

·         Looked After Children/Resources – the number of children in care and supported in permanent arrangements continued to increase; the main pressure related to the Purchased Placement budget which was forecasting a 2.6m overspend; this pressure had been put forward into the 2019-20 budget setting process; the in-house residential provision was set to overspend the £4.7m budget by £0.5m mainly due to staffing (£0.4m) and premises cost of £0.1m.

·         Targeted Early Help – the service was currently forecasting a £0.2m underspend on employee cost; the new Prevention and Early Help (including Children Centres/Family Hubs) had been established from October 2018; as at quarter 2 the budgets for the Children Centres were included within the Education and Learning service budgets.

The Chair of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee asked what measures the Service was taking to respond to the overspend.


In response the Deputy Director Children’s Social Care reported that there was an increase in demand and a report was being submitted to the Executive, the service pressures had been recognised and there was a budget of £2.35m in budget documents for social care.


He reported that the use of agency staff was a huge drain on resources; there needed to be an affective strategy to drive down that cost; agency staff should be a short term fix; when benchmarked use of agency staff against statistical neighbours Bradford’s use of agency social workers was lower, Bradford was in the top quartile on use of agency staff.


In response to a Member’s question it was reported that there was an underspend in the use of barristers and not all court cases required a senior barrister supporting them.


The Chair highlighted that he had attended the Improvement Board and commended the Board’s standard of questioning, their expectations and request for further information. He emphasised that he had confidence that the Board was heading in the right direction.





(1)       That in view of the extremely disappointing Ofsted Inspection outcome further reporting on workloads of children’s social care services be incorporated into the feedback reports from the Improvement Board.


(2)       That the results of the staff survey be circulated to Members via email as soon as the information is available.


Action:           Interim Strategic Director Children’s Services/Overview and Scrutiny Lead



Supporting documents: