INSPECTORS have highlighted a “significant improvement” in the performance of children’s social services in Wrexham, despite still rating the department as inadequate.
Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) previously raised major concerns over the delivery of support to youngsters in the county borough, particularly in relation to safeguarding.
It followed a case review of a vulnerable young person being conducted in January last year, which identified fears over their safety.
Wrexham Council has since pumped an extra £1 million into the department and set up an improvement board to ensure changes are made.
CIW carried out a follow-up review in October, the results of which have now been made public.
In their report, inspectors said there were still some outstanding issues to be resolved, but overall gave a positive view of the progress made by the service.
“The breadth of work undertaken by the chief executive officer (CEO) to improve children’s social services in Wrexham in a relatively short period is commendable.
“After many years of fluctuating quality in children’s services in Wrexham, the CEO’s decisive action and the constructive challenge have created the environment necessary to achieve significant positive change.
“Elected members have shown their corporate support for children’s services through increased funding for social care and raised social work salaries commensurate with the wider social care market.
“These actions have begun to attract experienced professionals into Wrexham.”
“With the support from an experienced interim director of social services from a neighbouring authority, the board has produced an accurate assessment of the local authority’s services and a clear plan for improvement.
“(The plan is) an opportunity to break from a history of temporary improvement and further decline which placed children at risk, demoralised staff and contributed to a situation where vacant posts became so undesirable many could not be filled.”
The inspectors reviewed 32 children’s case files during their latest review and did not find any youngsters to be at immediate risk of harm.
The outcome was described as “a significant improvement” compared to their previous inspection.
However, they said there remain many operational areas which have not improved with “wide variations” in the standards of social work practice.
“Work with families was not sufficiently robust to support positive change.
“To provide the best opportunity for children to remain safe within their family parents must be seen as equal partners and realistic goals for improvement must be agreed and understood.
“Despite rapid and meaningful progress in very difficult circumstances we consider children’s social services to remain inadequate but with significantly improved prospects for improvement.”
The latest report is set to be discussed by members of the council’s ruling executive board on Tuesday (February 9, 2021).
Ahead of the meeting, Cllr Andrew Atkinson, lead member for children’s services, commented:
“The inspection report provides positive feedback on the work we’ve done so far.
“For example, it talks about how the extra funding is helping us recruit key social work posts, and how improved working between employees, councillors and partners is having a positive effect.
“There’s still a long way to go, and CIW would like to see more consistency in some of our social work, but the report says we’re making progress as quickly as possible and moving in the right direction, which is really encouraging.”
CIW said it would continue to monitor the service’s progress and return to carry out a re-inspection within the next 12 months.