Agenda item

Children's Social Care Plan

For the board to be sighted of the draft Children’s Social Care Plan and to feedback on it before submission to OFSTED.


The Director of Children’s Service (DCS) introduced the report. He stated that OFSTED had received a copy of the plan this week (W/C 27/02/2023) but that the Council had yet to hear back from them. The Assistant Director – Improvement (AD-I) stated the Children’s Social Care Plan was high level and that sat beneath it would be individual service plans which were more detailed. The plan focusses on three pillars; stabilising the work force, quality of practice and an early help offer.


The questions from the Board were as follows:

·  Kate Goode – Is there a commitment from partner agencies to the plan?

o  DCS – The results of the OFSTED inspection and the following Children’s Social Care Plan were all within our gift in so much as it focuses on what the Council does in Social Work Practice. Work with partners is covered in a separate Partner Plan.

·  Kate Goode – How is recruitment within the service going post the publishing of the OFSTED inspection?

o  DCS – Recruitment is an issue nationally and you would be hard pressed to find a Local Authority who wasn’t struggling to recruitment now. Over the next few weeks, the service will be launching a micro-site aimed at attracting people to come and work at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and the leadership team had recently met with staff on the issue of renumeration. However, whilst recruitment is an important part of the puzzle, we have to focus on the retention of the staff we have and staff that join as without retention then we will always be in the same situation.

·  Cllr A Burrow – I like the 3 priorities, I think the first two are the most important. Are you getting the support from HR on the stabilising of the work force?

o  DCS – We have a close relationship with them, and they have a clear enthusiasm to tackle the problem with us. Ultimately if we don’t crack the problem, it remains a problem for them, so we are all invested in getting a stable work force.

·  Cllr Y Clements – I think it would be useful for the board to have the statistics on vacancy rates, I asked for these at the last meeting, and I am yet to receive them. Separately I also think we should have the OFSTED rating printed on every agenda pack for this board as a reminder of what our focus needs to be. As well as this there seems to be a lot of boards doing a lot of things, can we have a list of who sits on them and their contact details?

o  DCS – It will be another two and half years roughly before we are fully reinspected so it will be a long time before we see movement out of inadequate. In relation to the list of boards yes, we can provide that, and I will include what the board does or is responsible for.

ACTION: DCS to provide the board with a list of the various boards, contact details and what they do or are responsible for.

·  Cllr A Mackenzie – I understand Social Workers are regularly assessed but are they asked to assess upwards and provide feedback on their managers?

o  AD-I – We hold regular practitioner forums where workers can feedback to the departmental leadership teams freely. Managers aren’t present in these meetings to encourage people to be as truthful as possible. As well as this the DCS along with the Acting Chief Executive met with staff recently. 360 feedback is important to the service’s improvement and in helping us to recruit staff.

o  DCS – Further to this we also carry out an annual survey of staff and I have implemented a new post-box feedback system for staff to put in their thoughts/ideas and the uptake has been good so far.

·  Cllr A Wilson – Are there separate reports on the service?

o  DCS – There have been four reports on the service over the last year or so which is unprecedented. There has been:

§  Joint Targeted Area Inspection – this was carried out by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and the Chief Inspector of Probation (HMIP) for England and Wales following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

§  Sir Alan Wood’s Commissioners Report – Appointed by the Secretary of State to help the authority improve its children’s social care and functions after the former Secretary of State for Education, Kit Malthouse MP, wrote a letter saying he was ‘unconvinced that sufficient improvement had been made’ after the Council appeared before the Education Select Committee in June.

§  National review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson – Carried out by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel. This review sets out recommendations and findings for national government and local safeguarding partners to protect children at risk of serious harm.

§  OFSTED Inspection of Solihull local authority children’s services - Services to children and families in Solihull are inadequate. This inspection has identified serious and widespread failings across all service areas. Since the last inspection of local authority children’s services in 2019, when Solihull Council was judged to be requires improvement to be good, services to children and families have significantly declined.

·  Cllr A Wilson – How are you manage all the reports and recommendations?

o  DCS - The management of the improvement ultimately comes down to me as the Director, however we as a departmental leadership team are keeping on top of this. It will be important to track the improvements and when they become business as usual remove them from the plan.

·  Cllr B Donnelley – When we are looking at the recruitment issue are we also looking at what opportunities we can offer in the way of apprenticeships? Are we trying to capture Care Leavers and encourage them to enter the profession as they will have real lived experiences?

o  DCS – Yes, we always look at how we can utilise apprenticeships. Social Work is a profession that you can enter via the apprenticeship route.

·  Cllr D Gibbin – Over the last few meetings there have been a number of reports delayed, pulled or changed. This is one of the reports. I have raised the matter with the Acting Chief Executive. However, whilst p.20 2.6 sets out the reason why we have not had the plan in full this evening, p31 1.1.6 shows the plan was complete and shared with other Council’s as part of the SEND Peer Review. The Briefing Note we received detailing the ILACS guidance on inadequate authorities reporting on their improvement plan also shows that it is not for Ofsted to ‘sign off’ the plan and therefore the board could have received the plan. Can you tell me why we have not got the full plan in front of us this evening?

o  DCS – I can see your point regarding p.61, and it is true to say it existed in a very early draft form at that point, so I do think the report is a little misleading. It is also true that OFSTED don’t have to sign off the plan, but they do have to agree with it.

o  AD-I – The plan does exist, but we need to bring OFSTED with us, their visits start in May which will measure us against the plan.


Cllr Gibbin ended the discussion on this item and reminded Officer’s that it is the desire of the Board to be involved in plans and strategy as early as possible so that they can feed in their thoughts and be the constructive friend that scrutiny is meant to provide. He asked the board if they would be happy to add to the recommendation that the Board receive an electronic copy of the Children’s Social Care Plan as soon as possible.



The Board unanimously noted the matters for consideration regarding the Ofsted Improvement Plan and called on the Director of Children’s Services to share the Children’s Social Care Plan electronically as soon as possible.


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