Improvement Update

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Improvement Update - 26 June 2020

Improvements continue to be implemented despite Covid-19

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which has put the Council on an emergency footing, work has been continuing to implement the improvements required by Ofsted. A huge amount has been done by both our Council teams and our partners to implement new and more flexible ways of working to ensure vulnerable children are kept safe during the coronavirus lockdown. Staff were able to carry out high quality ‘virtual’ as well as real doorstep visits. In spite of the lockdown, we are really pleased that all performance against key indicators is on an upward trajectory.

The improvement programmes focuses on four main areas: Prevention and early help; social work practice; leadership and management; and children in care and leaving care. The programme team continues to be involved in supporting the response to Covid 19 and are actively involved in recovery planning with the services across Children’s Services. Key elements of the improvement initiatives we are currently working on are:

  • A permanence tracker has been developed from scratch and is actively being populated. This will help us monitor the progress of all placements far more closely.
  • All Social Work documents have now been re-written and are now compliant with statutory requirements. These are with ICT colleagues so that they can be developed into online formats to make it easier for staff and for tracking.
  • The Early Help Module is in the final stages of testing – once this is live, we will finally address the long standing issue of high volumes of no further action (NFA) cases at the front door.
  • Supervision policy is now in draft and being consulted on with staff and trades unions and a number of new standardised templates have been produced for staff to drive consistency.
  • A new challenge and resolution process has been implemented for child protection co-ordinators and for the Independent Reviewing Officers to ensure that we are avoiding drift and delay.

New Practice Standards will improve day-to-day work

Bradford Standards

A key piece of work that has been finalised has been the introduction of new practice standards. These have been produced for all Council colleagues who work across Early Help, Youth Offending, Children’s Social Care, Business Support, Fostering and Residential Services. The standards have been developed with colleagues across the service and will now form the basis of how we approach our work. The standards will be supported by a programme of training and learning.

It’s imperative that we make sure all the work we do on a daily basis with children, young people and families is consistent and clear. These new standards will help us do that and will form a key part of our improvement journey. Please take time to read them as we now all must work to them. They are non-negotiable because nothing less will do for the children and families we work with.

The standards have had a wide input from different areas of the service which is really important and we want to thank the many staff who have contributed to them. Our aim now is to always strengthen and improve what we do, so we will be reviewing these on a regular basis as our improvement journey moves forward.

Improving our Integrated Front Door

In September 2018, Ofsted found a number of concerns identified in relation to the effectiveness of the Integrated Front Door (IFD). A lack of systems, processes and quality were impacting on our ability to identify and respond to children in need of help and protection. This is important as the journey of every child supported by Children’s Services in Bradford will begin at the IFD so it plays a crucial role in making sure children receive the right support from the right service at the right time.

We are extremely pleased to announce that our leadership team in the IFD is all permanent and there are no interim or agency staff in management roles. A permanent management structure brings stability, vision and clarity for staff and members of our partnership.

Nabeel Hussain is the Head of Service for East Locality and also has responsibility for the front door. Nabeel joined Bradford in March 2020. Chatty Athwal is the newly appointed permanent Service Manager in the Front Door and commenced her role in April. In addition to this, we have five permanent Team Managers and two permanent Practice Supervisors which has resulted in a strong foundation to support and guide our staff.

The Integrated Front Door in response to Covid-19

The IFD is operating a business as usual approach in spite of the challenges associated with Covid-19. The Council have made a significant investment into ensuring all staff in the front door have the equipment enabling them to work remotely. The effort and planning to support the function of a ‘virtual front door’ has been significant and this could not have been achieved without the support of our partners. A virtual management meeting is held every morning to discuss staffing issues, demand and daily tasks. Any concerns are identified early and shared with the Service Manager where necessary.

Our service has remained operational and responsive during these unprecedented times. In addition to this, for week commencing 13 April (post bank holiday) we progressed 89% of our contacts within one working day. For week commencing the 25 April we progressed 85% of contacts within 1 working day. This is the highest return we have had for some time and is testament to how hard our staff are working.

Up and coming work

Planning for the next Ofsted monitoring visit is well underway.  Although the work we have done so far is positive, we know there is much more to do. Over the coming weeks and months there are a number of areas we will be focusing on:

  • Life Story work – When preparing for the last monitoring visit, we identified that our approach to life story work needs to be strengthened. We need to develop some practice guidance on this and provide training. The guidance will be developed by the end of June with a plan to commence work with young people who are waiting to have lift story work over the summer months.
  • Care planning meetings – practice guidance was developed and shared in February 2020. We will be monitoring its impact by way of a focused audit.
  • Effective supervision – we are working on training for managers around what constitutes good supervision in line with the launch of the draft supervision policy.
  • Chronologies – the practice guidance has been drafted and once fully implemented will help overcome the inconsistent approach Ofsted identified.
  • Voice of the child – we are seeing improvements in how this is recorded on the files. An audit to measure impact will be undertaken in the coming months.
  • Quality of assessments – a new assessment template is being built which will go in to test by the end of June ready for implementation by end of July.
  • Quality of care plans – the three main care plans (Children in Need, Child Protection and Children in Care) are with ICT colleagues and online versions of these will go in to test as soon as they have been built.
  • A temporary centralised recruitment team has been established within Children Social Care that has responsibility for the co-ordination of the start to end recruitment process, resulting in candidates being interviewed within 5 working days of the closing date of applications. This will help speed up recruitment and reduce the need for agency staffing.

Revised Children’s Services Improvement Plan

The post Ofsted Improvement Plan is in the final stages of being revised.  Bradford has had four monitoring visits from Ofsted, the last one in February 2020, which have all provided valuable feedback and learning.  This new plan supports us to take forward Ofsted feedback and learning, along with our own self-evaluation which Ofsted recognise is a strength in that we know what needs to improve.

The new plan enables us to reflect on progress; consolidate the work done to date; and prioritise and re-focus on the work required as we move forward.

Our improvement framework encompasses and is informed by external scrutiny and assurance through Ofsted along with Bradford’s own improvement practice. This is based on two key strands of activity:

  • Project initiated improvement – these are areas of improvement that are whole system or service wide. They are significant changes in practice and structure that would not be achieved by a single service or manager alone.
  • Individual Heads of Service self-evaluation initiated improvement – these are areas of improvement that are mainly localised; focusing on compliance and quality, requiring performance improvement through intervention by individual managers.

Together the two strands of improvement activity will deliver Bradford’s post Ofsted Improvement Plan and provide a robust assessment of what we do well, where we need to improve and what we are doing to achieve it.