BRIDGEND County Borough Council has welcomed a report into its children’s services from the Care Inspectorate Wales which has highlighted where the authority is performing well while also identifying areas where further improvements need to be made.

The authority is now required to produce an improvement plan in response to the report’s findings.

The key recommendations were:

Develop a range of user-friendly information signposting to preventative services;

Continuously monitor caseloads and quality assurance reports;

Improve the quality and consistency of assessments and plans;

Increase the voices of children and families in shaping service planning; and

Continue to focus on staff retention and promoting the timely recruitment of experienced staff.

Carried out in line with the principles of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014, the inspection has confirmed that a number of improvements have already been delivered since a previous inspection was held last year, and that the council has an ongoing action plan in place which is supporting further positive developments.

It emphasises that the council must continue to deliver these identified improvements in order to avoid variation in the quality of its services and social work practice.

It also recognises the combined impact of national factors such as the Covid-19 global pandemic, significant increases in demand and ongoing issues around the recruitment and retention of staff, and how these are having an adverse effect upon the delivery of some services.

The report states:

“Sustainable progress at pace is now needed across a range of service delivery areas if the local authority is to consistently deliver their core business of reducing risks to and promoting the well-being of children in need of help and protection.

“The application of effective quality assurance processes will be essential to securing and sustaining improvements and to ensure the timeliness, quality, and consistency of services for children and families.”

Councillor Jane Gebbie, Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help said:

“We welcome the findings of this report, and have assured inspectors that the progress we have already made will continue. A great deal of work has already taken place to improve the overall quality of our services for children and their families, and much of this has been highlighted by the report.

For example, we have commissioned a programme of independent quality assurance to assess the strengths and areas for development in children’s services, are actively recruiting new employees, and are carefully redeploying existing staff to provide additional support in areas experiencing the most pressure.

Management oversight and decision-making has been strengthened by increased frequency of supervision in priority areas and the better collection and scrutiny of performance information data, and greater planning to reconfigure and improve the resilience and sustainability of the service in the longer term is also being taken forward.

I would like to thank our children’s services workforce for the commitment and dedication that they have demonstrated during the considerable challenges of the pandemic and beyond. It is pleasing to note that when surveyed by the Care Inspectorate Wales, 93 per cent of our staff said that they felt well supported. We are committed towards giving our workforce all the support they need to do their jobs well, and to help them to develop their careers in Bridgend County Borough.

The council also remains committed towards strengthening the overall effectiveness and resilience of its services for children, and we will continue to liaise closely with the inspectors as we seek to deliver further improvements.”

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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