Children’s services has made “clear progress” since an inadequate rating but is facing a care staffing ”crisis”, council committee is told

Ofsted have ruled East Riding children’s services has made “clear progress” since an inadequate rating last year but some remain at risk while the council faces a care staffing ”crisis”.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:45 pm
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee heard Ofsted felt issues including a lack of management oversight of children’s services were being addressed.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee heard Ofsted felt issues including a lack of management oversight of children’s services were being addressed.

Council safeguarding services lead Penny Donno told the committee a rise in the number of children looked after the authority showed more were where they needed to be.

But she added there was “not a quick fix” to problems within the service which led to Ofsted rating it inadequate in March 2020 following an inspection.

It comes as councillors also heard both children’s services and the care sector were facing a “crisis” in staffing amid a shortage of experienced social workers.

Interim adults, health and care lead Lee Thompson said the care sector had seen an exodus of workers ditching often minimum wage roles for higher pay in retail and hospitality.

The comments from officers follow a visit from Ofsted in May to see what progress the council has made on children’s services.

Eoin Rush, council director for children, families and schools, previously told councillors the authority’s previous EHaSH system had intended to be a one stop shop for safeguarding issues.

But Mr Rush added the set up had left it creaking under “thousands” of referrals as safeguarding teams struggled to process cases.

Ofsted’s report on its May visit stated “progress has been made” but the coronavirus pandemic had slowed down improvement efforts.

The visit found staff reported feeling well supported and that management had responded effectively to issues arising from the pandemic, with a “positive” fall in cases referred to social workers.

Ofsted stated teams were responding to child protection concerns in a “timely” way, with children in care “well supported” and case loads for staff now more “manageable”.

But Ofsted also found there were children who remained “at risk” from exploitation or going missing from homes because of a lack of resources in the service.

The report added the quality of some child protection assessments was not “consistent”.

It stated the inconsistencies were causing “drift and delay” for some families, with some children left in “potentially harmful situations for too long”.

The visitor also found the service, like in other councils, was dogged by sickness absences, vacancies and “challenges” around recruiting and keeping social workers.

Ms Donno told councillors Ofsted’s assessment broadly aligned with officer’s own findings about the system and that improvement in some areas would take time.

The officer said: “We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s not a matter of a quick fix.

“We’re more confident now that we understand where the gaps are and we have a Department for Education adviser working with us on the changes.

“I’m confident that when Ofsted do another inspection they will see an improvement.”

Mr Thompson told councillors staffing issues continued to be the “biggest issue” facing the East Riding’s adult social care sector.

He added current pay rates were making it uncompetitive, with many earning just above the minimum wage and others “lucky” if they took home a living one.

Mr Thompson said: “As we face this crisis we’re very limited as to how we attract people back into the sector.

“The pandemic was traumatic for staff and that as well as the impact of Brexit has made many think it might be time to move on.

“That will be an issue until the government recognises care is a vocation and there’s an emotional contract involved between workers and those they care for.

“It doesn’t matter how many recruitment campaigns we do, it’s not a competitive sector.”

Article by Joe Gerrard (Local Democracy Reporting Service)