Key aspects of Swansea Council’s children’s social services have been criticised as poor by the Care & Social Services Inspectorate Wales.
A review of the department by the CSSIW found significant weaknesses in access to services, assessment, care management and review and protection arrangements. The range and quality of services was mainly good as were efforts to promote independence.
Inspectors reported that on the whole the quality of assessments was poor. Children were not routinely seen or spoken to, their demeanour and behaviour not observed and their parents not described. Some less urgent cases were given a light-touch “administrative” assessment to save time.
A “worrying” number of complex and serious cases went unallocated for lengthy periods, including some children on the child protection register, resulting in delays in providing services, drifts in children’s achievement plans and families becoming disengaged.
Investigations into allegations of significant harm were not always thorough or completed. Some risk assessments were superficial, with little information gathering and historical concerns not properly taken into account.
Service users and staff were particularly critical of the long waiting lists to access family support services – such as respite care – for disabled people.
Problems were exacerbated by significant recruitment and retention problems for children’s social workers, with a “considerable” number acting up in posts temporarily, the report says. Frontline staff were also critical of the lack of support – through supervision and case audit – from managers.
Inspectors called on management and council members to address failings over referrals, unallocated cases and the workforce shortage as a matter of urgency and to improve scrutiny arrangements.
Chief inspector Rob Pickford said: “I have made clear to the chief executive and director of social services my expectations for improving services and have put in place arrangements to monitor progress at quarterly intervals. The authority has much work to do to improve its children’s services.”
In response, the council’s head of children’s services, Mark Roszkowski, attributed many of the issues raised to social worker shortages, and said the authority had launched a recruitment campaign to tackle the problem.
Essential information on child protection