Vulnerable adults and children feel safe and are protected
Are we achieving our targets?
Green – 4; Amber – 3; Red – 8; M – 3
Are we getting better?
Stayed the same
Further information is needed or the latest measure is unavailable
Analysis and issues
The table above outlines that this Outcome Plan has seen improved performance for one of the four indicators, while two indicators have maintained previous performance levels, and one has declined. Three of the four indicators, relating to Children’s Services, are reported as Red, while the proportion of cases where action was taken and the risk was reduced or removal in Adult Social Care is performing above targeted levels.
The proportion of children subject to a second or subsequent Child Protection Plan has demonstrated improving performance, but remains red at 16% against the target of 14%. This measure has demonstrated variable performance over the last year. Nationally there is an average of 20.2% of repeat child protection plans, regionally this is 20.7% and statistical neighbours are higher at 21.5%. Performance continues to be ‘good’ when measured against comparators, which could suggest that the target locally is too low. The view remains that a rate close to 20% would be too high and the Safeguarding Unit would now see a rate of 16% being both more achievable and appropriate. The New Ways of Working programme is expected to reduce the number of repeat plans going forward, through a more integrated service supporting vulnerable children and families. Therefore, while local performance is below target, it remains is significantly better than national, regional and statistical comparators, and following feedback from the Safeguarding Unit, this target is in-scope to be revised at to 16% for the next financial year, as set out in Appendix Six.
The percentage of repeat referrals to children’s social care has increased at quarter four of 2018/19, to 21.2%, compared to 19.0% in the Quarter Four 2017-18. Performance is based on the last 12 month data, in line with statutory reporting. Cheshire West and Chester’s result of 21.2% remains slightly better than the averages for England (21.9%), the North West region (22.3%) and the Council’s statistical neighbours (21.8%).
Child Protection cases continue to be closely monitored by the service. Team managers are challenged on and scrutinise repeat plan information on a monthly basis to ensure that decision making and risk management is appropriate. The safeguarding unit will also complete regular audits of cases. Actions continue to be implemented in relation to the early support interventions that are undertaken by the Council and its partners, in order to provide children and families with appropriate support and mitigate repeat referrals.
The Partners in Practice (PiP) are a network of local areas that are considered as leaders in their field in terms of quality and innovative practice. When Cheshire West and Chester Council was awarded PiP status in 2018 it acted as recognition that the Council and its partners are delivering some of the best social care services for children and families in the country. The Department for Education describe the Partners in Practice programme as a ‘genuine partnership between local and central government, bringing together the best practitioners and leaders in children’s social care to improve the system’. Upon award of Partners In Practice status, the Council received government funding to develop a local innovation project as well as support other areas in their improvement journey. The Council has branded its local innovation project New Ways of Working (NWOW).
New Ways of Working is still in development, but has a clear aim to embed Trauma Informed Practice, Motivational Interviewing and Multi-Agency Group Supervision throughout the children and families workforce, including strong links with Adult Services, under the overall vision of a Think Family approach. It is hoped that New Ways of Working will pave the way for more integrated teams coordinating services for children and families, underpinned by evidence based practice.
The rate of rate of children in care is currently at 73 per 10,000, and has maintained its performance since mid-year and quarter three, which reported within the 5% threshold of 71 and 70.7 respectively. At the end of March 2019, there were 482 children in care. Performance is higher than the North West region (91.0 per 10k of population), but lower than statistical neighbours (60.9) and England (64.0). A range of models are currently in place to support a reduction in the overall volume of children entering care. The Family Group Conferencing and Edge of Care models have demonstrated success over the last 12 months in reducing the number of children entering care. The Edge of Care service has now expanded their criteria to support all children at risk of becoming looked after. Considerations are also being given to other models which could be used to reduce demand further. There is also a strong emphasis on ensuring that exit planning for those in care is clear and that children can leave the care system in a safe and timely manner, when necessary. More recent work at management level includes a review of how teams manage and deal with risk. The aim here is to adopt a more consistent approach to risk management in casework, based on a clear set of principles that are applied consistently across the Borough. Work is also underway with partners to develop a common approach to practice via New Ways of Working, where a joint approach to risk management is agreed across the whole of the continuum of need.
Performance on adult safeguarding, regarding the proportion of cases where action was taken and the risk was reduced or removed has been steady and remains Green between Quarter Two and Quarter Four, at 94% against the target of 92%.
Wider Performance Indicators
Within the wider performance indicators, performance on completing single assessments within 45 days has significantly improved as of March 2019, increasing from 66.7% at Quarter Three to 81% in Quarter Four which represents the highest performance since Quarter One 2017-18, however the measure remains Red against the stretching target of 90%.
Performance in relation to front door decisions within 24 hours, has declined from Quarter Two , performance has however has improved from 60.8% in Quarter 3 to 71% in Quarter 4. There is an expectation that all contacts will receive management oversight within 1 working day of being received by the initial access and resources team. Daily risk discussion work is embedding and valued by both police and the initial access and resources team – this has led to reduction in police contacts not meeting criteria from steady 120 per month, to now regularly around 60 per month. Evidence based tools included with contacts to the front door have aided improved performance and continue to be progressed with partner agencies – improvements seen from baseline of 0.8% of contacts in July to last 3
months being consistently over 20% for the last 3 months. Initial management oversight now also reported on following addition to the screening – this demonstrates clear and consistent oversight with consistently over 95% management oversight within 1 working day and those remaining 5% are those where overseeing manager/Supervising Social Worker has completed the screening – therefore providing clear oversight and reassurance.
In reference to the proportion of looked after children places outside the borough boundaries, at the end of March 2019, 88 (18.3%) of the 482 Looked After Children were placed out boundary and more than 20 miles from home. Of these 88 children, 53 are in private provision, 29 are within the Council’s fostering provision, 3 are placed with own parents and 3 are in other local authority provision.
Nationally there has been a slight increase in the proportion of children being placed outside of the local authority boundary and more than 20 miles from home. Performance for Cheshire West remains above comparators (England- 15.0%, North West- 11.0%, and Statistical Neighbours (15.9%).
The semi –rural nature of the borough creates significant challenges for both Cheshire West and Chester Council and Independent Fostering Agencies in recruiting fostering households within the local authority footprint. Likewise residential care provision within the Borough is a challenge with a lack of available beds at the point of placement for young people with complex emotional and behavioural difficulties. In order to address this issue, the existing Sufficiency Duty strategy has been updated and aims to ensure the Local Authority can provide sufficient accommodation for Looked After Children between 2018-2020.
- Within care proceedings, all options are considered to secure permanency for children currently in long term fostering.
- Exit planning is considered monthly by director of children’s services with children in care managers to identify other appropriate options outside of the care system.
- There is continued oversight of all externally commissioned placements in relation to ensuring the matching process is robust.
- Market engagement with IFA and residential providers within the Local Authority footprint to better utilise local provision
- Development of residential cohort contract to purchase beds within Local Authority footprint.
- Development of a sub-regional approach to shaping the market across Foster 4.
- The service has a robust three year recruitment strategy for foster carers based upon regional data and an action plan informs the strategy.
In relation to Edge of Care Performance for all children being supported by Edge of Care is– 64.5%, a decline from mid-year performance of 92.3%. There has been recent recognition within the edge of care team that an increased number of children open to the edge of care service have become looked after. When considered a number of identifiable indicators as to why intervention has not been effective are apparent: They include an increase in:
- Chronic long term neglect cases with a high number of parents experiencing mental health/learning difficulties.
- Adoption and SGO breakdowns.
- Number of children out of education with no alternative provision or plan.
- Edge of care referrals being received at a late stage in the planning for children including at the point of seeking legal advice. This has been raised with senior managers.
- Some inconsistencies in both the timing of requests for edge of care interventions across the localities; and how effectively the team is being used when considering alternative plans to care.
- Recent reduction in the number of requests being received into the service.
The above % figure does not take into account/discount those children who are voluntarily looked after with a plan of reunification who have been supported by Edge of Care to return to the care of their family. The child/ren will be counted as looked after within the figure when they have become looked after prior to edge of care intervention commencing. This would likely affect the overall annual % figure. In order to address and improve performance on this indicator:
- There are on-going development sessions within the service to identify gaps in practice/service offer particularly in relation to adoption support and working with children at risk of adoption breakdown.
- There has been and will continue to be email alerts sent to Child In Need teams with regard to capacity within the edge of care service and highlighting that the service can accept requests for service.
- All children subject to a child protection plan for longer than 9 months are being identified by the edge of care team and the social worker approached to establish if there is a role for the edge of care team.
- Senior Social Workers (SSW) and Senior Family Intervention Workers (SFIW) will identify all children where the edge of care intervention is not achieving the required change within a 3 month period and meetings will be held between the edge of care team and the social worker, and where appropriate the team manager, to review the intervention, continue or change as required.
Analysis and issues
Over 75% of the actions have been delivered or are initiated and are on track for delivery to timescale, including:
- The development of enhanced processes to ensure health and dental checks take place on-time for children in care has continued.
- The practice of writing child-centric plans is now embedded within the service and has been scrutinised positively by Ofsted.
- Culture change in the regional adoption agency is progressing well; staff members report a stronger allegiance with Together for Adoption as they become increasingly integrated into one regional adoption service.
- The first stage of the review of the emergency duty team has been completed, alongside a zero-based budgeting exercise. Work to respond to pressing issues (lone working; accommodation options; access to elderly mentally infirm respite services) has already commenced, and is on track for delivery.
6 actions have been delivered during 2018-19. Examples include:
- The Children in Need project was evaluated and findings considered, which formed the basis of a new business case for in house delivery. The proposed business case for developing a new service within children in need was supported, and a new intervention service has launched.
- A joint approach to managing need & risk has been developed, has been embedded within children’s social care, and is in the process of being rolled out across the wider children’s workforce. An escalation process has been embedded between children’s social care and Health. Health colleagues now escalate any late requests to the relevant Locality Manager. The Designated Nurse Specialist is leading the implementation of procedure that the Looked After Children Nurses (knowing when review health assessments are due) will instigate the assessment without social workers having to request it – so eliminating the possibility of late requests.
In relation to the action milestones that have been re-phased, examples include:
- The development of further integration with sub-regional fostering partners has been re-phased to 2019-20. All partners have agreed that further work is needed regarding what phase 2 of the fostering collaboration would entail and the benefits and disbenefits of additional integration.
- The development of a sub-regional approach to the development of a Pause service to support mothers at risk of repeat removals of children has been re-phased, as further data analysis and business case development is required before a decision on the approach to securing appropriate funding is agreed.
- Improvements to the profile of private fostering will be delivered in-line with a refreshed sub-regional approach.
Next Reporting Period
The following are examples of tasks and milestones expected to be completed in 2019-2020:
- The alignment of principal social worker roles across children and adult services to promote joined-up working.
- A new therapeutic residential care home for young people will be established.