What changes have we made?
Following review and staff consultation, we have made changes to the structure of the service. These focus on early help and prevention and giving social workers the support, team structure, and training they require.
Improved Front Door
The review process identified a need to have a ‘Front Door’ team of qualified staff to signpost, support, and triage work safely. This then takes the pressure off the MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) who can focus on managing referrals and more complex cases.
Creating teams focused on specific areas
We identified that our CASS ( Children Assessment & Safeguarding Service) had too many teams all trying to cover the full range of services. We have now restructured to have more focussed teams including;
- Assessment Teams responsible for child assessment
- Safeguarding and Court Work teams
- Children Looked After teams
- Supported by Early Help Hubs
The new structure ensures people are working to appropriate skills sets and experience and also there is a clear career progression pathway
Improved levels of permanent staff
Investment in additional staff has been secured and were brought in to focus on moving cases through the system to address drift and delay and get caseloads to an acceptable level.
To build a dynamic and effective service, however, we are looking to recruit more experienced, permanent staff. People who are dedicated to a career in social work and committed to achieving our vision
Improved training and supervision
We have reviewed and updated our training programme providing social workers of all levels the opportunity for structured career development in addition to providing all the skills needed for professional practice. Take a look at what we offer in terms of training.
Providing more flexible working
We understand that a lack of flexible working options may have been a barrier to experienced staff coming to work for us. We have reviewed our working arrangements and introduced more flexible working options.
Inadequate rating from Ofsted
Our service is rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted.
We are working closely with an appointed Department for Education Commissioner to tackle the recommendations made by Ofsted at our most recent inspection.
Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Cllr Ian Lindley commented: “We are determined to meet these challenges. We will not shy away from this, instead, we will rise to it.
“The Council is committed to work with the specialist Commissioner, alongside partners, to accelerate an improvement plan. This three-year plan, implemented in 2019, is underway and is already seeing positive changes – a fact highlighted in the report, with praise in a number of areas.”
Progress has been made
Despite all the challenges, progress has been made
- Monthly referrals have dropped from 292 in December 2019 to 179 in August 2021.
- The number of children with child protection plans has fallen, from 367 in December 2019 to 235 in August 2021.
- Families and children are visited promptly with more than 80 percent of vital visits taking place within expected timescales.
- There has been a significant reduction in caseloads for individual social workers. (The average caseload is 16.3 in England. North East Lincolnshire’s is now 23 after reaching a high of 50 in 2019).
- The authority is making its continued campaign to recruit social workers more effective with a firm commitment to new structures. The report highlights how ‘Permanent social workers know their children well and have been seeing children regularly. Most visits are purposeful, and children’s voices are clear.’ Like in many parts of the country, North East Lincolnshire does not have enough of them, and pledges to do everything possible to change that and alleviate pressures faced.
- Early help support is identified by Ofsted as good and the work with young people moving out of care is also praised in the report, as is the ‘front door’ – initial meetings with families and young people.
- The authority’s work to prevent child exploitation receives praise in the report. It states how there is an ‘effective multi-agency response and monitoring of children’, and this makes them safer. In recent years, North East Lincolnshire’s GRAFT (Gaining respect and finding trust) project received Home Office commendation for similar work.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Philip Jackson commented; “We have already engaged with regional and local partners, including Lincolnshire County Council and North Lincolnshire Council, to develop a collaborative package of support to assist us with our ongoing improvement focus.”