SIGNIFICANT progress has been made in turning around Peterborough’s ailing children’s social care system - helped in part by a £1 million cash injection.
Managerial and system failings which led to a damning Ofsted report for Peterborough City Council’s children’s services department in September have been wiped out by a series of changes implemented since the arrival of new interim children’s services head Malcolm Newsam at the end of last year.
This has been aided by an extra £1 million added to the departmental budget which has allowed 23 extra temporary social workers to be taken on to drive down caseloads.
Twenty-five permanent workers are also set to be taken on in the coming months.
The extra staff have helped reduce the number of ‘open’ cases from 724 in November to 296 last week – described as an acceptable figure for a city the size of Peterborough.
Meanwhile, the number of initial assessments made outside of the 10-day target has been reduced from 192 to none in the same period.
Changes to the management team have also been made.
Up to seven temporary and permanent managers left following Mr Newsam’s arrival, and a new senior team was brought in.
Mr Newsam said that although a lot of focus was placed on children’s services following the damning Ofsted report in September – in which seven out of nine safeguarding categories were deemed to be failing and vulnerable children put at risk – the department had actually been in the doldrums for a decade.
He said: “There have been long-standing difficulties in the department. I’ve found that there is a history of the council receiving a bad inspection report, improving a little afterwards, before going back to the way it was.
“We are making very good progress and achieved a tremendous amount in the last three months. We are not treating the symptoms of the failures but the root causes and we are determined to put in place a permanent and sustainable improvement.”
In the wake of the improvements, Mr Newsam is now looking to a future where the council can have a top-quality children’s social care system which provides a wider range of services.
This will be further helped by a new, market-leading computer system called Liquidlogic which will go online on April 5, replacing an outdated reporting system.
Mr Newsam has also spoken of moving away from the “knee-jerk” reaction sometimes associated with social care, to one which is preventative.
He said: “We want to have preventative services which keep families together and move away from the blue flashing light crisis response.”
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson added: “I persuaded the Government to give the city council a chance to improve and I’m very pleased the council has taken that chance and is making real progress.”
Social worker recruitment drive
MALCOLM Newsam says he hopes to attract top quality social workers as the council goes on a recruitment drive in the coming weeks.
Mr Newsam said the “chaotic” state of the department under the previous regime stymied attempts to take on new permanent workers. But now, with the council set to take on 25 new staff, he is hoping the improved department can attract the quality it needs.
He said: “We can now promise prospective new social workers reasonable workloads and quality supervision and development.