We undertook the inspection during January 2016.
Inspectors reviewed or tracked 64 case files. This included 27 individual interviews with staff; six interviews with families; seven direct observations of practice; and 100 responses to a staff survey.
The report found that there was a clear strategic direction for children’s services and a high level of confidence in leadership arrangements.
There had been a high level of vacant posts during 2014-15 (31%) but investment in workforce planning improved the ability to recruit suitably qualified and experienced staff.
Staff morale was generally positive and the senior management team were well regarded by staff. There was a degree of anxiety about forthcoming ‘agile working’ arrangements and relocation of services.
There was a marked demand for family support services and the volume of contacts with children services (28,354 contacts during 2014-15) - particularly with respect to domestic violence.
Managers and social workers were optimistic about the plans for improving early preventative services, but had concerns about whether the capacity and range of services would be increased to meet the high level of needs being presented.
Chief Inspector Imelda Richardson said of the report:
When inspecting local authorities’ children’s services, we look for strong corporate support; strong political support when embracing change; stable senior management clearly sighted on front line delivery; and a focus on a whole system approach to achieving improvement.
When these are in place, it helps immensely to improve staff morale, and this is something that inspectors found within Cardiff Council’s children’s services during this inspection.
However, with the magnitude of legislative changes on the horizon, continued pressure on public funding and ongoing high demand for services, we all need to continue to work together to improve the quality and stability of social care in Wales.
Our recommendations included:
- Strong political and corporate support for children’s services should continue in order to achieve the council’s vision for children and young people in Cardiff, while continuing to manage the consistent high volume of demand on statutory services.
- The council should consider how it can increase the opportunities for staff to be engaged in the development and transformation of services; and for the voices of children and their families to be included in service planning.
- The council must review its arrangements to ensure services can meet the needs of children and young people, particularly for those being subjected to domestic violence.
- A range of user friendly information should be developed and made easily accessible for families, children and young people, not only with respect to signposting to preventative services but also how children’s services carries out its work.
- The council must develop more effective arrangements to ensure the needs of children and young people are assessed if there are repeated referrals about their well-being.
- More emphasis should be given to recording the views of children, young people and their families.