Children's Services Inspection Report
17th October 2017
The recommendations of an inspection of Powys County Council's Children's Services have been accepted by the county council.
Findings of Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) will be presented to a meeting of the county council on Thursday (October 19).
"We fully accept the regulators recommendations, their report is both hard hitting and challenging. We are sorry that we failed to meet the high standards residents deserve and apologise for our shortcomings," said Council Leader Councillor Rosemarie Harris.
"The council is totally committed to safe-guarding children in our county. I will be leading the council's response to the recommendations of the inspection from the front as a top priority and that ensuring that the resources are in place to underpin this work.
"We fully understand the challenges facing the service and have already taken action to strengthen key areas and to review areas of concern. We are committing additional resources to meet the future needs of the service and have in place a detailed action plan to ensure that the necessary improvements are delivered as a matter of priority.
"A great deal of work has already taken place. Changes were made to senior staff within the Council and immediate steps to strengthen the service were implemented rather than wait for the final publication of the report. Subsequently very serious concerns have emerged in respect of the disclosure of information and production of data within the service which are now subject to a formal investigation.
"When the new Cabinet took the helm after the election in May this year, we recognised that there were a number of weaknesses in Children's Services. Together with officers we developed an escalation plan immediately to address these issues. This involved bringing in a number of additional officers to support the improvements in the service including a new Head of Service, David Johnston, who has specialist experience of improving Children's Services. The findings of the inspection have confirmed our concerns and our prompt action has ensured measures are already in place to address the issues identified in the report.
"We have established a multi-agency Improvement Board and put in place an action plan to rectify the shortcomings of the service. We have also worked with the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to put in place an expert team which will support the council in responding to the inspection report. It will also work with children's services to address key issues in the inspection report. Following discussions with WLGA they have also sourced Mr Phillip Evans to be our new interim Director of Social Care for the next period with the statutory responsibility for the service. Mr Evans is vastly experienced in this service area both as a former senior inspector with CSSIW and more recently a long serving Director of Social Care at the Vale of Glamorgan Council. He will be tasked to ensure that safeguarding of children and the supporting legislative frameworks are completely robust and represent best practice. He will also seek support from the WLGA expert team to assist elected members and officers embark on a sustainable improvement journey in this most critical of services.
Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Cllr Rachel Powell said: "The feedback from the inspectors acknowledges that staff have been and continue to be, resilient and professional despite significant changes made within the service.
"We had already begun to address many of the issues and have made changes to bring about improvement, including changes within senior personnel and the external support commissioned from WLGA. Whilst the inspection outlined positive aspects within working practice, it also raised concerns in the falling of standards therefore, much attention has been, in the reinforcement of safe, appropriate practice to ensure that children and their families are safeguarded.
"Initiating change demands strong leadership, dedication and a shared focus that is owned by all members of staff, at all levels of delivery. We are committed to working with staff, partners and listening to all views of children, young people and their families, with an aim to create a sustainable service for the future of Powys."
Carl Cooper, CEO of Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations and co-vice chair of Regional Partnership Board, said: "There is a history of strong partnership between the voluntary sector in Powys and the council's Children's Services. We are committed to working alongside council colleagues to implement the recommendations to improve the service to ensure children and young people are supported and safeguarded."