Agenda item


Previous Reference: Minute 46 (2018/19)


The Strategic Director, Children’s Services will submit Document “AD” which provides the Committee with a progress update in respect of improvements identified within the Improvement Plan following the recent OFSTED inspection September 2018 and subsequent DFE notice to improve issued on the 4 December 2018.


More specifically the report will focus on changes and improvements within Workstream 2 of the Improvement Plan – Partnerships namely:


·         The Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

·         Front Door Service


In addition, the report will provide the Committee with a general update relating to:


·         The structure and governance around the Improvement Board including Improvement Plan, and

·         OFSTED’s first monitoring visit.


Appendix 1, Feedback from the Monitoring Visit, will be circulated to Members of the Committee and made available on the Council’s website as soon as it has been finalised.




That the contents of the report be noted.


                                                            (Catherine Knowles – 01274 434335)



Previous Reference: Minute 46 (2018/19)


The Strategic Director, Children’s Services submitted Document “AD” which provided the Committee with a progress update in respect of improvements identified within the Improvement Plan following the recent OFSTED inspection September 2018 and subsequent DFE notice to improve issued on the 4 December 2018.


More specifically the report focussed on changes and improvements within Workstream 2 of the Improvement Plan – Partnerships namely:


·         The Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

·         Front Door Service


In addition, the report provided the Committee with a general update relating to:


·         The structure and governance around the Improvement Board including Improvement Plan, and

·         OFSTED’s first monitoring visit.


The Interim Strategic Director Children’s Services reported that progress was continuing to be made in response to the OFSTED Improvement Plan which included:


·         That a Back to Basic’s programme for all children’s social care staff, was being developed focussing on what good looked like in terms of case recording, voice of the child, analysis of risk within assessments, undertaking home visits and use of supervision.

·         A review and refresh of the social work job role, with a view to achieving an increase in grade to support retention of staff in a competitive market was being undertaken; benchmarking had been undertaken of a new job description and roles and the next step would be to look at increasing pay.

·         Currently the service had 10 social workers who had caseloads of above 25; the service was continuing to recruit practice supervisors to hold some of the cases; the service was continuing to use agency staff; some agency staff were not performing up to the appropriate standard and had to be relieved of their duties.

·         The service was going to start a recruitment process which would take time to work through.

·         The Service continued to improve use of analysis and performance data so that Managers understood where performance was good and where it needed improving.

·         The first monitoring visit took place on 6-7 March and focussed on front door and MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub).

·          Section 47 safeguarding strategy meetings had now moved to the locality teams, this was where there were concerns/risk about a child and agencies through the MASH shared key information in order to assess risk and consider whether a child should be made subject to a child protection plan.  By moving the Section 47’s to locality provided greater continuity in the case management, through timely allocation of a social worker, thereby reducing the “handoffs” across service areas.

·         A multi agency mock inspection was undertaken in February to help with getting ready for the OFSTED monitoring visit; noticed that at the mock inspection that staff were confident about talking about their work and that there was progress being made; staff were positive and understood the urgency required to make changes to ensure the system was safe.

·         Whilst the mock OFSTED inspection was positive, it was acknowledged that whilst the changes were beginning to evidence better management grip and decision making, there remained much to do to ensure that consistency of practice and safe decision making across the service was offered.

·         The central theme of the Improvement Plan was the Voice of the Child, in order to achieve this, it was important to engage with some of the existing young people groups such as the Children in Care Council and Youth Voice. It was anticipated that over the next month arrangements would be made for the Strategic Director of Children’s Services and members of her leadership team to meet with Youth Voice and also the Children in Care Council, to share and gain feedback around the OFSTED findings, the improvement plan and what they believed needed to happen.


The Interim Strategic Director, Children’s Services gave a verbal feedback on the OFSTED Monitoring visit which took place on the 6 and 7th March 2019 as Appendix 1 contained confidential information it could not be disclosed to the public until after 29 March 2019:


·         Inspectors stated that they did not find any cases prior to the visit of children not being safe that had been referred to the service which was a reassuring message.

·         The inspectors commented on work they saw and the progress and impact already starting to show through discussion with staff and partners; staff were feeling the benefits of improvements taking place and confident that improvements were being made.

·         improvements were required in response to homeless young people which the service was aware of.

Members made the following comments:


·         Concerned that the service did not even have appropriate agency staff in place.

·         What improvements had been made in respect of MASH and front door services?

·         Was early help as effective as it was expected?

·         Relieved that Social Workers caseloads were being reduced but have been made aware by social workers that this was not happening.

·         Acknowledged the update and the work undertaken so far but why did the service need the back to basics drive?

·         What was being undertaken in relation to paragraph 2.6 (7) where it stated that there were still changes around consistency and quality of practice for too many teams?

·         What was the timescales in terms of seeing the improvements proposed in terms of consistency and quality of practice?

·         was the ratio of staff to manager looked at? Were some teams too large?

·         Were schools aware of the contribution they felt they were making, were schools aware of what the service was doing? Some schools were adding to the problems such as forging attendance and had a bigger agenda of being successful.

·         Was the use of agency staff in the long term sustainable? what was the solution long term?

·         Aware of social workers feeling confused by the changes being implemented; MASH and the work involved included having cases turned around in 24 hours which social workers were finding stressful.

·         Any changes needed to happen with accuracy.

·         How many people were encouraged to accept promotion to do a managers job without adequate training?

·         What kind of vision did the service have on career progression? What support did the service have to manage capability processes?

·         Lessons learnt from this situation would benefit other service areas.

·         Respected the significant changes made in a complex system but worried about confused and anxious social workers;  in a recent experience of working in a school that needed improvements, the staff were heavily involved in the improvements that needed to be made and were asked where they thought the school was at each of the standards; engaged staff as a whole in their critical thinking and being a partner in moving things forward which made staff feel they were part of the process rather than changes being forced upon them; everyone needed to be engaged; people wanted to do a job well and be recognised.

·         Had managers been replaced for the three teams that had issues?

·         How up to date with the needs and requirements of the service were people who would be recruiting for the new Strategic Director, Children’s Services post?

In response to Members comments it was reported that:


·         Not all agency staff were up to the standard required by the Authority; the Service would be in a better place once the pay had been increased and the improvements had been made in terms of recruiting and retaining social workers.

·         Early Help gateway would have a single management structure; it was crucial that people were getting to the right place and have a single point of entry for everyone rather than several ways into the department; there had been some internal changes to the front door and MASH, including a social worker now being based at the Contact Centre that screened all calls coming in which was well received by the OFSTED inspector; application of threshold where it should be.

·         Early Help offer was in its infancy and would assess which families needed assistance; Early Help was not at the stage it should be; working with partners to help make improvements in this area; when schools identified that a child had an extra need they should be referring cases to Early Help.

·         Back to basics drive was needed as audits kept showing that basic things were not being undertaken; compliance with basics was not there; contribution of all should be following a certain practice and not undertaking bad habits and helping everyone to understand and getting basic things right.

·         In relation to challenges around consistency and quality of practice – a vast amount of audits (1700) were undertaken last year; talks had been undertaken with Managers and staff where teams had issues; some managers were struggling to manage appropriately and training need was being identified for them; managers needed to be good to get good social work practice.

·         There were three teams that had issues who also had a high level of demand and turnover of staff; needed a visible picture of every staff and team as well as audit findings and shift resources so the division of labour was more equitable; it would take about six weeks to see improvements in this area.

·         The ratio of manager to staff was looked at.

·         Schools were aware of what the service was doing; level of partnership engagement had been huge; the threshold event was well attended.

·         The reality was that any improvements that were made would involve challenging conversations but needed to equip staff to ensure that some partners required to be more challenged. 

·         Uplifting social worker salaries would make recruiting more competitive with neighbouring authorities as well as good case loads, good managers, good working environment, how people are treated, how people behave, staff feeling respected and recognised would make retaining staff easier.

·         It was important for people to be held to account, there needed to be consistent accountability for poor performance so people were aware of what was expected of standards.

·         The 24 hour turn around relating to MASH was statutory; vast amount of local authorities were managing this without difficulty; Bradford only achieving 60 % of cases turned around in 24 hours which was low; part of the issue of not reaching a higher target was the front door, now that was being streamlined it would help to increase the turnaround of cases and reach a higher target.

·         There was still staff who felt confused and upset at the amount of changes happening; staff had to be encouraged to be patient as improvements would take time; needed to keep talking to staff to reassure them that things would settle; things would begin to settle down in about three months; staff were continuing to be informed of the changes taking place to help them understand and listen to their suggestions.

·         Changes had to be made quickly and demands on the staff were huge; will start to get better performance and give good service to families of Bradford; it was a big ask and no doubt staff felt anxious.

·         Some staff had been promoted to a managerial position without appropriate training and then there were those managers who were doing a fantastic job; needed to determine who could step up with the right training and expectation and who was not in the right role; needed career pathways to be good social workers and practitioners but did not always make good managers or leaders.

·         There was a difficulty in the organisation in dealing with capability; now that HR was outsourced the advice received was not always appropriate; there were very few staff in the capability process; if staff were dealt with properly and supported from the beginning then issues would not escalate; Bradford had good progression for social workers; good progression route was not being used effectively.

·         Staff surveys had been undertaken based on how people work and supervision etc but not on what OFSTED had found, but getting staff involved in the changes would be a good idea; staff could see what was in the Improvement Plan and see where they felt they were; getting staff involved in this way was a good suggestion.

·         New managers had not been identified yet, permanent managers would be supported; some agency managers were not suitable and would be replaced with other agency managers; vast majority of managers end up doing what was expected from them after support; there were only a small number of managers that were not appropriate.

·         The interim Strategic Director, Children’s Services was involved in the recruitment process; the recruitment process for the Strategic Director Children’s Services was rigorous; confident that the right candidate would be appointed to the post.




That the contents of the report be noted and the Committee look forward to the next update and the outcome of the OFSTED Monitoring visit when it becomes available.


Action:           Interim Strategic Director, Children’s Services



Supporting documents: