Child protection in the county is "back from the brink"

Hereford Times: Child protection in the county is "back from the brink" Child protection in the county is "back from the brink"

CHILD protection in the county is back from the brink two years after being
branded “inadequate” by Ofsted.

This week Ofsted said Herefordshire Council’s safeguarding service still needs improvement – but there are now no widespread or serious failures that put children at risk.

Another “inadequate” verdict could have seen Whitehall directly intervening in the running of the service.

The Ofsted report reveals that agency social workers were brought in ahead of the latest inspection to cut a case work backlog, with child neglect a major factor in many of the cases examined.

Though the “inadequate” rating the service has been working under since 2012 is gone, the report says safeguarding is not yet delivering “good” protection and help.

As such, Ofsted says all areas – with the exception of adoption – still require improvement, with progress acknowledged as “slow” and “very recent.”

Too many of the areas for development identified in 2012 continue to require improvement, the report says.

Both the council and Ofsted recognise that the service still has some way to
go to get a “good” rating by 2016.

Jo Davidson, director of children’s wellbeing, said the identified improvements were a “strong staging post” towards that target.

Councillor Jeremy Millar, cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, said he
was “reassured” that no children being cared for in the county are at risk of
harm.

As of March, 237 childrenand young people were subject to protection plans in the county, this is up from 208 in March 2013.

Another 1,269 children were identified as needing a specialist children’s service– down from 1,444 the previous year.

A further 242 children are in the council’s care, up from 216 this time last year.

Ofsted reported neglect as a major factor in most cases examined by its inspectors and, though identification of neglect was getting better, in some cases oversight was poor and approaches too focused on the needs of
adults.

Individual social worker case loads have come down from an average of more than 30 last October to around 18, with help hired from an outside agency.

Recruitment and retention of social workers, however, remains a key risk, and, while management and supervisory functions were “improving slowly” they were still “too variable.”

The Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub – which puts child protection professionals in a single contact referral and assessment centre
is proving “increasingly effective” after an overhaul.

But children were still seeing too many changes of social worker and data
and information management was not yet accurate enough.

The Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Board (HSCB) is said to be working
better than in 2012 to ensure services are co-ordinated.

Board chairman Dave McCallum said many of the improvements are too recent to have made significant differences.

“There is still further work to do to ensure that the board’s policies and procedures are up to date and that it is getting accurate and relevant performance information from partner organisations.

“The board also needs to ensure that the work is manageable and prioritised in its ambitious programme of improvements.”

Comments (6)

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10:11am Fri 4 Jul 14

WYSIATI says...

Congratulations - a lot of hard work in difficult circumstances.

It's a bit frightening if they needed to bring in an external agency to reduce case loads from 30 to 18 - that's not far of doubling the number of workers - can that be sustained? Significantly more children in care and under protection plans - that all sounds like more resources are going to be needed. And all the while early intervention work has been reduced which will lead to more demand in the future. Not going to be easy (or cheap).
Congratulations - a lot of hard work in difficult circumstances. It's a bit frightening if they needed to bring in an external agency to reduce case loads from 30 to 18 - that's not far of doubling the number of workers - can that be sustained? Significantly more children in care and under protection plans - that all sounds like more resources are going to be needed. And all the while early intervention work has been reduced which will lead to more demand in the future. Not going to be easy (or cheap). WYSIATI
  • Score: 1

11:21am Fri 4 Jul 14

yokelyokel says...

WYSIATI wrote:
Congratulations - a lot of hard work in difficult circumstances.

It's a bit frightening if they needed to bring in an external agency to reduce case loads from 30 to 18 - that's not far of doubling the number of workers - can that be sustained? Significantly more children in care and under protection plans - that all sounds like more resources are going to be needed. And all the while early intervention work has been reduced which will lead to more demand in the future. Not going to be easy (or cheap).
Agree that a lot of people are working very hard in trying circumstances

But one question is why did Herefordshire Council decide to reduce early intervention work despite warning that it would lead to long term costs outweighing the short term savings. It isn't good enough to just blame government cuts (which obviously have an impact) because other authorities have not reduced the early intervention - some have even based policy around its importance despite having their government grants cut like Herefordshire's.

Note also that the director has had her area of responsibility hugely reduced to concentrate on this, that there was an expensive recruitment campaign involving `golden hello' payments and still we need to bring in expensive outside help to just to get up to `requires improvement'. There is something fundamentally flawed in the way Herefordshire children's services are run.
[quote][p][bold]WYSIATI[/bold] wrote: Congratulations - a lot of hard work in difficult circumstances. It's a bit frightening if they needed to bring in an external agency to reduce case loads from 30 to 18 - that's not far of doubling the number of workers - can that be sustained? Significantly more children in care and under protection plans - that all sounds like more resources are going to be needed. And all the while early intervention work has been reduced which will lead to more demand in the future. Not going to be easy (or cheap).[/p][/quote]Agree that a lot of people are working very hard in trying circumstances But one question is why did Herefordshire Council decide to reduce early intervention work despite warning that it would lead to long term costs outweighing the short term savings. It isn't good enough to just blame government cuts (which obviously have an impact) because other authorities have not reduced the early intervention - some have even based policy around its importance despite having their government grants cut like Herefordshire's. Note also that the director has had her area of responsibility hugely reduced to concentrate on this, that there was an expensive recruitment campaign involving `golden hello' payments and still we need to bring in expensive outside help to just to get up to `requires improvement'. There is something fundamentally flawed in the way Herefordshire children's services are run. yokelyokel
  • Score: 3

12:56pm Fri 4 Jul 14

WYSIATI says...

Yokel - good questions indeed. All sorts of early intervention is being cut all over the place - youth services and the rest, the policy from Govt appears to be that councils should do the statutory and nothing else. Hereford is a special case too with high demand and low money coming in and next to no reserves - not many counties in the same boat (yet).

And yes when you look at the two Ofsted reports I think there's a pretty clear condemnation of Chris Bull's massive rearrangement of senior management, effectively tripling the responsibility on key staff and making a director of people - now they've gone back to something not dissimilar to what was in place before - an expensive, painful and pointless exercise.
Yokel - good questions indeed. All sorts of early intervention is being cut all over the place - youth services and the rest, the policy from Govt appears to be that councils should do the statutory and nothing else. Hereford is a special case too with high demand and low money coming in and next to no reserves - not many counties in the same boat (yet). And yes when you look at the two Ofsted reports I think there's a pretty clear condemnation of Chris Bull's massive rearrangement of senior management, effectively tripling the responsibility on key staff and making a director of people - now they've gone back to something not dissimilar to what was in place before - an expensive, painful and pointless exercise. WYSIATI
  • Score: 3

3:30pm Fri 4 Jul 14

TruthSerum says...

Social Services, Cafcass, all around the country need to do an inhouse cleansing on several areas to their working methods to have a long standing concrete results, this shake up consists of:

1. Training manuals: lack of training on how to "make robust decisions", "how to write rffective reports that cuts unnecessary time by half"
2. Understandimg the importance of work ethics, to better withstand knowing how to cope with work, clents both children and parents.
3.Follow the KYC rule: Know your client rule, without first following this basic protocol they lack preventive actions to making situations worse, coming to a standstill creating backlog of reports, and lacks robust decision making.
4. Understanding via training on Robust Risk Management Training.
5. Understand via training the necessary laws: simple short studies but effective comprehension laws on privacy, protection, child abuse, neglect, etc, some staff just picks up knowledge of the law from hearsay and intuitive decision making only or some due to lack of knowledge are not proactive and proscrastinatebthe case files, delaying needed care to the children.
6. ACCOUNTABILITY: Ever wondered whynif you work in insurance or selling investment the fault of the actions such as 'mis-selling, tampering financial reports, insider trading, mis-calculations, mis-representations, money laundering, abuse of funds etc' comes down hard as punishable to
the agent alone, removal of license, possible jail if not fines, and this is all because money are people's assets and investments, the question is why does the business have more robust protection laws/clauses over agents accountability and social welfare cases such as social worker ahents and cafcass agents are "immune to mess ups? And shielded from the law?"
Give the staff licenses to uphold in order to work, consequences of failing to meet standards set as license revoked, own up to an accountability code of ethics.
6. Review the "professional standards and code of ethics" guidelines.
7. More transparency in how they make their decisions over case files, and reporting styles. The dangers present right now is the lack of strategy, post assessment reviews by head department to note the KPI, key performance indicators, for example why case files are a "revolver, unsolved for so long", lack of fact finding or follow ups from fact finding, dangers of overlooking facts on purpose, bad judgements or too much judgements on selective facts unnecessary.
8. Timing and Planning, know when time is ripe, to act in accordance to timing, and transparency in planning methodology, management and head of department to be adept at reviewing this skill/reports to prevent waste of resources and cut costs on hiring and firing.
Social Services, Cafcass, all around the country need to do an inhouse cleansing on several areas to their working methods to have a long standing concrete results, this shake up consists of: 1. Training manuals: lack of training on how to "make robust decisions", "how to write rffective reports that cuts unnecessary time by half" 2. Understandimg the importance of work ethics, to better withstand knowing how to cope with work, clents both children and parents. 3.Follow the KYC rule: Know your client rule, without first following this basic protocol they lack preventive actions to making situations worse, coming to a standstill creating backlog of reports, and lacks robust decision making. 4. Understanding via training on Robust Risk Management Training. 5. Understand via training the necessary laws: simple short studies but effective comprehension laws on privacy, protection, child abuse, neglect, etc, some staff just picks up knowledge of the law from hearsay and intuitive decision making only or some due to lack of knowledge are not proactive and proscrastinatebthe case files, delaying needed care to the children. 6. ACCOUNTABILITY: Ever wondered whynif you work in insurance or selling investment the fault of the actions such as 'mis-selling, tampering financial reports, insider trading, mis-calculations, mis-representations, money laundering, abuse of funds etc' comes down hard as punishable to the agent alone, removal of license, possible jail if not fines, and this is all because money are people's assets and investments, the question is why does the business have more robust protection laws/clauses over agents accountability and social welfare cases such as social worker ahents and cafcass agents are "immune to mess ups? And shielded from the law?" Give the staff licenses to uphold in order to work, consequences of failing to meet standards set as license revoked, own up to an accountability code of ethics. 6. Review the "professional standards and code of ethics" guidelines. 7. More transparency in how they make their decisions over case files, and reporting styles. The dangers present right now is the lack of strategy, post assessment reviews by head department to note the KPI, key performance indicators, for example why case files are a "revolver, unsolved for so long", lack of fact finding or follow ups from fact finding, dangers of overlooking facts on purpose, bad judgements or too much judgements on selective facts unnecessary. 8. Timing and Planning, know when time is ripe, to act in accordance to timing, and transparency in planning methodology, management and head of department to be adept at reviewing this skill/reports to prevent waste of resources and cut costs on hiring and firing. TruthSerum
  • Score: 2

9:49am Mon 7 Jul 14

yokelyokel says...

WYSIATI wrote:
Yokel - good questions indeed. All sorts of early intervention is being cut all over the place - youth services and the rest, the policy from Govt appears to be that councils should do the statutory and nothing else. Hereford is a special case too with high demand and low money coming in and next to no reserves - not many counties in the same boat (yet).

And yes when you look at the two Ofsted reports I think there's a pretty clear condemnation of Chris Bull's massive rearrangement of senior management, effectively tripling the responsibility on key staff and making a director of people - now they've gone back to something not dissimilar to what was in place before - an expensive, painful and pointless exercise.
WYSIATI

You make some good points about the lunacy of putting education, childrens and adults social services under a single director. The childrens parts are meant to be together to try to ensure cohesive working between schools and social services regarding child protection.

The other point is that if you have such an enormous job you should have someone with the background and qualifications to do it - not someone who had presided over a high profile failure in the Eunice Spry incidents in Gloucester. Jo Davidson had left that job for genuine family reasons but then went to work at Derby for £870 a day before being approached by Herefordshire who offered even more (some of her former Gloucestershire colleagues were already in Herefordshire). This was not a competitive selection for the vital role. She should not have been offered or accepted a huge role that she was unable to focus properly on due to family reasons even assuming she was qualified to do it. My opinion is that her situation led to her taking bad advice from the wrong people, making mistakes and not being on top of the whole situation and the way that it was drifing downwards. That is not to say she can't lead a recovery, but it is important to be honest about the factors that led to the failures.
[quote][p][bold]WYSIATI[/bold] wrote: Yokel - good questions indeed. All sorts of early intervention is being cut all over the place - youth services and the rest, the policy from Govt appears to be that councils should do the statutory and nothing else. Hereford is a special case too with high demand and low money coming in and next to no reserves - not many counties in the same boat (yet). And yes when you look at the two Ofsted reports I think there's a pretty clear condemnation of Chris Bull's massive rearrangement of senior management, effectively tripling the responsibility on key staff and making a director of people - now they've gone back to something not dissimilar to what was in place before - an expensive, painful and pointless exercise.[/p][/quote]WYSIATI You make some good points about the lunacy of putting education, childrens and adults social services under a single director. The childrens parts are meant to be together to try to ensure cohesive working between schools and social services regarding child protection. The other point is that if you have such an enormous job you should have someone with the background and qualifications to do it - not someone who had presided over a high profile failure in the Eunice Spry incidents in Gloucester. Jo Davidson had left that job for genuine family reasons but then went to work at Derby for £870 a day before being approached by Herefordshire who offered even more (some of her former Gloucestershire colleagues were already in Herefordshire). This was not a competitive selection for the vital role. She should not have been offered or accepted a huge role that she was unable to focus properly on due to family reasons even assuming she was qualified to do it. My opinion is that her situation led to her taking bad advice from the wrong people, making mistakes and not being on top of the whole situation and the way that it was drifing downwards. That is not to say she can't lead a recovery, but it is important to be honest about the factors that led to the failures. yokelyokel
  • Score: 7

11:55pm Mon 7 Jul 14

WYSIATI says...

Yokel - I don't know about Jo Davidson but it seems clear to me that the wish to cut away management to meet political imperatives put two of the most important and risky services together and they have quite different needs and requirements. Both adult social care and child protection have increasing demands at the moment, the population is ageing, the population in Herefordshire is older than most and since baby P the loads on child protection have increased enormously. Put that in a context where budgets were shrinking and both services were under severe pressure, lots of criticism and huge problems getting people to work here and you have a recipe for trouble. Add into that toxic mix politically inspired changes in inspection frameworks that led to a great increase in authorities being found inadequate and no surprises.

Interesting that Herefordshire appears to have addressed intractable problems of not getting the staff by contracting out a good part of the service just as the Govt abandons the consultation on contracting out social care and I am at a loss about what happens next.

Lots to do, lots of criticism sure to flow and hats off to those who help make things better.
Yokel - I don't know about Jo Davidson but it seems clear to me that the wish to cut away management to meet political imperatives put two of the most important and risky services together and they have quite different needs and requirements. Both adult social care and child protection have increasing demands at the moment, the population is ageing, the population in Herefordshire is older than most and since baby P the loads on child protection have increased enormously. Put that in a context where budgets were shrinking and both services were under severe pressure, lots of criticism and huge problems getting people to work here and you have a recipe for trouble. Add into that toxic mix politically inspired changes in inspection frameworks that led to a great increase in authorities being found inadequate and no surprises. Interesting that Herefordshire appears to have addressed intractable problems of not getting the staff by contracting out a good part of the service just as the Govt abandons the consultation on contracting out social care and I am at a loss about what happens next. Lots to do, lots of criticism sure to flow and hats off to those who help make things better. WYSIATI
  • Score: 1
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