Wales’ social care regulator has lifted Neath Port Talbot children’s services out of special measures.
The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) placed Neath Port Talbot children’s services under a serious concern protocol in November 2012 after criticising the department’s ‘bullying and oppressive’ culture.
At the time the CSSIW criticised the council for high caseloads and inconsistent practice, and raised concerns about looked-after children cases being allocated to community children’s teams rather than the looked-after children team.
A further inspection in November 2013 saw the council remain subject to the serious concern protocol.
But the CSSIW’s latest inspection of Neath Port Talbot’s children’s services, found significant improvements. The inspection, carried out in February, found high morale within the service and no evidence of the oppressive culture it found in 2012.
The use of agency staff to cover for staff on sick leave had also declined, contributing to a more sustainable workforce and greater continuity for service users it said.
The CSSIW also noted improvements in staff training and that staff now felt confident that the level of corporate and management support for the service would continue when the serious concerns protocol was lifted.
Imelda Richardson, chief inspector at CSSIW, said: “Significant progress has been made by Neath Port Talbot Council’s elected members and staff to improve the quality and consistency of services for children and young people in need of support or protection.
“The local authority must now remain committed to continuing to improve services for children and their families in Neath Port Talbot.”
The inspection also found the number of looked-after children cases had stabilised, the team was fully staffed and a number of additional posts had been agreed to ensure long-term cases could transfer from the community children’s teams.
It said that caseloads had reduced for most workers, although some teams had higher workloads, undermining the quality and consistency of work with children and young people.
While the CSSIW lifted the serious concern protocol, its report made 15 recommendations for further improvement including continued monitoring of caseloads and risk assessment training for unqualified support workers.
Other recommendations include:
- Developing the workforce strategy to improve the recruitment and retention of social workers in the medium- to long-term
- Reviewing the quality of supervision to ensure a consistent approach
- Revising the looked-after children’s strategy to make sure services focus on emotional wellbeing and outcomes for children in long-term care
- Further improvements in the quality of care planning and more emphasis on permanency arrangements for children in long-term care
‘Back on track’
Nick Jarman, director of social services at Neath Port Talbot Council, said: “This is a major and very welcome development following more than two years of hard work to put the service back on track.
“A huge amount of effort has gone into service redesign and redevelopment and the vast improvements made have been evidenced in the CSSIW report.
“However, we are not complacent and still have considerable challenges to address. Our improvement programme will continue, as will our aspiration to provide the very best services for the children, young people and families that we support.”