Children's Services monthly bulletin

Children's Services
John Gregg


They say a week is a long time in politics - well a month is certainly a long time in Children's Services!

 Anyone who thought we might take our feet off the pedal post-Ofsted will have seen how determined we have been to increase the pace of our improvement journey. 

We must use the momentum we've built up to respond to Ofsted and make sure we're making the necessary changes to the most positive difference to our children.

We are now in the middle of the staff consultation on a series of proposals made to redesign the service in order to make that difference.

Please do take the time to read through them carefully and let us know what you think.

This is an extremely challenging, but I believe exciting time for Children's Services and I want to thank you for your continued support and energy.

John Gregg, Director of Children's Services

Children’s Services Manager Briefings  

 I am pleased to launch regular briefings for Managers to update you on improvements and changes in Children’s Services.

The briefings will be fronted by myself and other members of the Children’s Services Leadership team and will include a range of topics. The dates agreed for the year are:

  • 24th May 2017
  • 14th July 2017
  • 12th September 2017
  • 7th December 2017

 The first briefing will be taking place on 24th May and will include the following topics:

  •  Update on Children and Families Social Work Act 2017
  •  IRO/CP Chairs Improvements
  • The Workforce Strategy (Assessment Centre Framework/Accredited Professional Development Scheme and the Social Work Academy)
  • Financial Accountability and ownership

 I would like to encourage you all to attend as your contribution is important.

If you are a Service Manager or Team Manager and have not received a meeting request, please contact Kirstie Murray on Tel 024 7683 3402.


A Giant Achievement


The Fostering Team's latest video is already getting great feedback after being launched at the start of May.

'Giants' highlights the need for foster carers who can keep siblings in care together in Coventry.

The team previously released a short film called 'Alfie's Journey' which won international acclaim.

The latest project was led by Coventry on behalf of 13 other local authorities.

Make sure you take a look.


Assessment Centre Pilot for recruiting experienced Social Workers

A structured assessment centre for appointing experienced Social Workers will be piloted in June and July.

 The assessment centre will include three key stages:

1.     Application process – an on line application

2.     Off site assessment – two on line tests

3.     Assessment Centre – a Children’s Panel/Technical Interview and a Case study written exercise

Feedback from managers and candidates will be gathered from the assessment centre pilot in June and July and changes agreed with Managers and signed off by the Workforce Development Board before fully implementing.

 Further details will be circulated to Service Managers and Team Managers and discussed further at the Manager Workshop on 24th May 2017.


Special Guardianship Orders 

Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) are part of the legislative framework for children who cannot live with their birth parents. 

In the last few years there has been increasing debate about their use (or misuse!).

This report clarifies what SGOs are, what they are not and when they should be be applied for. 

Putting Practice First

Following the success of our Putting Practice First one day conference we have arranged for a series of dynamic and engaging children and young people practice focussed events throughout June.

These workshops, beginning on June 26, will be facilitated by leading academics and national policy leads from across the country and will give you the opportunity to reflect on current thinking and practice to support your knowledge and skills. Further information and booking details to follow!


Time for some critical reflection?

Places are available on a course looking at the importance of critical analysis and reflection in social work practice.

The course has been organised by Adult Social Care but is equally interesting and helpful for social workers and social care professionals across adult and children’s social care.

It promises to demonstrate how to apply critical reflection and analysis to inform and provide rationale for professional decision making.

To book a place click here.

Transformation Programme Latest

Work is progressing on each of the projects in our work to transform Children's Services and put children and their outcomes at the heart of what we do. 

Early Help - the Connecting Communities Phase 2 recommendations were agreed by Cabinet on 7 March.  Staff and Trade Union Consultation incorporating these recommendations with the wider Children’s Services redesign commenced on 8th May and ends on 21st June.. 

Business process – we are finalising the outputs of the focus groups with the services that have helped us to map what a child's journey looks like. We're checking these back with the people who took part.  More detailed analysis in specific service areas is about to commence and this will help inform the redesign of Children’s Services.

Workforce – Formal staff and Trade Union consultation for the Children’s Services Redesign (including the Connecting Communities Phase 2 recommendations) commenced 8th May and ends on 21st June.  Feedback should be sent to the generic inbox for transformation;

Edge of Care – further work looking at different options for how we deliver Edge of Care services in the future continue and will be reporting back to the Transformation Board at the next meeting.

Fostering - the Everest scheme for fostering children with complex needs is underway and we're working with St Christopher's to recruit carers. Information evenings have taken place and one child has already been placed.

Supported Accommodation - we are looking at options to reduce the number of young people over the age of 18 in supported accommodation and help them to move onto independent living.

Residential redesign – Cabinet approved the recommendations for the redesign of our children’s homes on 7 March. Work is now being undertaken on the staffing structure and the sale and purchase of properties in order to move to implementation phase during the summer.

Recommissioning of external residential care - Recommendations for external residential commissioning were approved by Cabinet in April; the tender will be issued towards the end of June 2017.

Appraisals - a myth buster!

Hopefully you know by now you should have your appraisal with your manager by June 30.

There appears to be a bit of a myth you cannot carry out an appraisal of someone you manage until you've had your own appraisal.

Here's what Organisational Development told us:

Ordinarily we would expect senior leaders to cascade objectives to service managers, however in reality this isn’t always possible.

  •  As a Manager you are responsible for your team’s performance and will have a clear understanding of their key priorities over the course of the next 6 – 12 months. Regular communication throughout the year with your Service Manager will enable you to undertake appraisals with your team. You do not need to wait for your own performance appraisal to have taken place.
  • If you are unsure if your team’s objectives align to your Service Manager’s vision for the Service, we would recommend sharing an overview of your proposed objectives with your Service Manager in the first instance.      

Find out more here

Check out the latest learning and development opportunities

Learning and Development 2017

The 2017 Learning and Development  Portfolio has been updated with current courses and availability.

This will be updated regularly with priorities and needs from the recent Ofsted inspection and Continuing Professional Develpment from appraisals.

Documents Library

The Documents Library is up and running. You can now find the latest versions of all forms (including referral forms) and templates used in children’s services in one central place which means that you no longer have to search for these in your emails or wonder whether you have access to the latest version of the form or template. If you notice that a form that you use isn’t on the Documents Library, please send this to Jackie Rutherford who will ensure that it is included.

 Good Practice Exemplars.

 We want to build on this area and get more examples of good practice that can be shared. These are all redacted and include the following:

  •  A case file audit – use this to example model your next audit on as it is focuses on the child’s experience
  • A case summary – all files should have an up to date case summary that include relevant information as set out in this example
  • Two examples of case supervision management oversight – these demonstrate use of the Signs of Safety approach in supervision
  • A child protection plan – comprehensive, clear and focused plan
  • Initial child protection conference report – clear and concise report to conference.

 If you have other examples of better or equally good practice, please send the details to Lee-Pardy McLaughlin so that we can include these on the site.

 The Documents Library is on the same site as the Tri-X children’s services procedures. Why not save this link to your Favourites?

Escalation and Resolution of Professional Disagreements

 Professional challenge is healthy and should be seen as part of a culture of continuous learning and doing everything possible to improve outcomes for children and young people. When there a professional disagreement, it’s always best to air the issues and understand the rationale for why a decision was made that you didn’t agree with. 

This applies to professionals in partner agencies as well as those that are in the various disciplines within children’s services. The Coventry Safeguarding Children Board has a procedure called, ‘Escalations and Resolution of Professional Disagreements’ that should be used to resolve differences

The same principles apply to resolving professional disagreements between staff within the Council’s children’s services. It is good practice to try and resolve the disagreement though discussion and negotiation first before it is escalated. 

There has been some recent learning about this in a case where there was a disagreement about thresholds between early help and social care that didn’t resolve themselves and were not followed through. This meant that this case remained in the wrong part of the service and therefore potentially was not serving the children well. 

Managers agreed that they should have escalated their concerns to senior managers to seek a resolution rather than just accepting the situation without a clear rationale. It was agreed that communication about this procedure is circulated to staff and managers as part of the learning actions on this case. 

Menu of Services - Coming Soon

Soon there will be a central place to go to find out what services are available for practitioners to commission in children’s services and a link directly to the Documents Library if a referral form is required to access the service.

The Menu of Services will briefly describe the service on offer, what the criteria for access is, and how to make a referral. Watch this space for more information.

Time to sign up for the Practice Education Qualification

We are currently recruiting to the Graduate Certificate in Practice Education, a programme we jointly deliver with Solihull MBC which is accredited through Bournemouth University. 

This is an opportunity for experienced social workers who are interested in developing knowledge and skills in the supervision, teaching and the assessment of social work students to study and gain a qualification in Practice Education. You will need 3 years post qualifying experience and your manager’s approval to enrol on the course and agreement to provide a social work student starting mid-September.

The workshop dates for unit 1 are 5th & 6th July 2017 and 16th October 17.  Applications need to be in by Wednesday 14th June at the latest.

As part of our membership of the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership we are also offering two places on their Coaching and Mentoring and Practice Education course on the Birmingham Post Qualifying Leadership Programme.

For further information on the Practice Education qualification please contact Anne Winn on

Information management and appropriate system usage

 We all have a statutory duty to safeguard the information we record and use. It is your responsibility to do everything you can to safeguard information held about service users, and only access case records if you have a professional reason to do so.

Everyone must complete the recently revised Data Protection training. If you have not done so already, please complete it as soon as possible.

Please be vigilant. If you have concerns about how information is being used, inform your manager immediately.


Have a go at hotdesking and meet the Kickstart team

It's now just 5 months until around 1,800 start to move into our new offices next to Coventry Station.

How ready are you? If hotdesking is something that concerns you how about giving it a try before you go?

The Kickstart Team has created a temporary space in the Council House where you can try hotdesking. On Wednesdays the Kickstart team will be based there, so why not drop in and find out more about how we will work in Friargate.

People who may not want, or not be able, to work from home or other locations have the opportunity to try agile working in room 79 on the top floor. 

You can try out the desks (standard and rise/fall), monitor arms and chairs that will be at Friargate. 

The temporary space is available until the end of June.


 In last month’s Children’s Services Bulletin there were some ‘top tips’ on developing chronologies. This was an area of concern in the recent Ofsted inspection. We will be looking to set up some workshops about how to develop a good chronology, as well as some further guidance.

In the meantime, how did you get on with using the top tips? The feedback will inform the content of the workshops. Have all your cases got up to date chronologies? If not please ensure that they do. Please discuss this at your next supervision session to assure yourself that the expectation is clear.

Going forward, chronologies should start with all new cases that come through the MASH and are accepted as a referral and those that go to early help. Managers, please discuss this at your next supervision session to ensure the expectation is clear.

Practice Education – supporting a culture of Learning and Development

As we move ahead there will be an ever increasing need for social work student placements. Lots of experienced social workers within Coventry have undertaken the Practice Educator qualification, we really need to build on your expertise and are looking to develop new ways to support your continuing professional development.

As well as increasing the number of social work student placements we offer across the service, we will be looking to create a community of practitioners that can better support the learning and development of the workforce as a whole.

We will be holding the first of our regular quarterly meetings with Practice Educators on Friday 25th May from 10 – 12 in the Council House 2nd Floor Room 77 please advise Anne Winn of your attendance. This workshop will provide the opportunity to hear from Lee and Anne on the national and regional developments that are shaping social work practice and pre and post qualifying education.


Coventry’s Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement Framework

 The Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement Framework was revised in December 2015 and last updated in October 2016. Quality assurance is: ‘A systematic process to ensure the quality of outcomes’. The aim of this framework to deliver improved outcomes through a wide range of indicators of quality. Assuring quality of practice is essential to the provision of a good service to the children and young people of Coventry.

 In order for the quality assurance activity to deliver the improvement it is essential to ‘close the loop’ to ensure learning informs practice.  This is achieved as follows:

  • Each audit activity undertaken must include direct feedback and discussion between the auditor and the case holder.  This provides immediate opportunity to discuss good practice and improvement opportunities.
  • Once audits have been completed and moderated then the auditor must meet the case holder and where appropriate team manager and go through the audit and findings, in particular addressing any actions points from auditors and agreed timeframes to complete.
  • Where the auditor does not grade a case as at least good, service managers ensure that appropriate corrective action has taken place within timescales set by the auditor to improve this specific case and outcomes for the child.
  • A number of mechanisms have been introduced to enable learning from audits to be disseminated to staff.  These include, the practice improvement forum, learning sets, formal and informal training, training through LSCB, learning reviews, workforce development and through reflective supervision.
  • The Child Protection Chairs and Independent Reviewing Officer’s also have a quality assurance and scrutiny role. The process for management alerts when concerns are identified has been reinforced and is now in line with the IRO management handbook. 
  • Once audit activity has been completed, and this includes the regular monthly audits, a report will then be produced, detailing the findings, both in terms of areas for improvement and existing strengths.
  • There will also be a set of recommendations attached to the report.  Reports will then be sent to relevant Strategic Lead’s and the Principal Social Worker. Strategic Lead’s produce action plans which address the areas for improvement, within their service area.
  • Action plans will then be sent to the Strategic Lead for Quality Assurance to monitor their progress, through quarterly quality assurance meetings.


Children and Social Work Act 2017

The Children and Social Work Bill has now become an Actof Parliament after receiving its Royal Assent last month.

The Act brings into force a number of changes to the social work profession.

Parenting Judgement, Fostering and Residential Care

These short videos are a useful resource to support learning and development for social workers working directly with parents and foster carers. 

ACE job opportunity

Read here for details of a job opportunity as Lead Manager for Adoption Central England (ACE)

Helping social work practitioners communicate with deaf children.

As part of Deaf Awareness Week Professor Alys Young discusses working with sign language interpreters in child protection, and offers advice for practitioners.

Get in touch

Email with your updates, comments or suggestions.

May 2017

Our performance – April 2017 data

Average caseloads:

- RAS – 30

- Neighbourhoods - between  21-23
- IRO ( CP) 68

-IRO (LAC) 61

-CDT – 22

-LAC – 19

-R21 - 16


Children and Family First assessment timeliness 



Child Protection Plans




25.5% of all CAFs were held by either Health or schools against a target of 40%


Number of Looked After Children



 As at 31 March 2017 48 children adopted,  17 children have been placed with adopters with no adoption order. 30 applications lodged with the court since April 2016.


Useful links
British Association of Social Workers
Research in Practice
Community Care
Family Law Week
Health and Care Professions Council