Support the #Respect4SocialWork campaign today and celebrate the social work profession.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

Increased caseloads hinder progress at Durham

The pace of change at Durham children's services has been hindered since the last inspection in 2016.

High staff turnover and increased demand for services have resulted in increased caseloads which, coupled with an outdated electronic system, has hindered the pace of change required since the local authority was judged as requires improvement to be good overall in 2016.

"There has been appropriate financial commitment from the council and a service restructure to support the improvements needed. Appropriately focused improvement plans are firmly in place to address the shortfalls and they are starting to have an impact," said the report.

"Improving practice has been seen since August in relation to the identification of risk, timeliness of assessments, stability in the workforce, and performance management," it added.

The report warned that vulnerabilities remain in relation to delays in decision-making for some children. This is in part due to caseloads remaining high in some teams and inconsistencies in how cases requiring a social work assessment within duty teams are allocated.

Management oversight and direction are not as sharply focused as they could be, and children’s experiences are not consistently well recorded. This is not supporting accountability, effective planning for children, monitoring or challenge.

In the focused visit to Durham children's services, inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan.

Inspectors highlighted:

Senior leaders know themselves well and have clear and appropriately targeted action plans in place to address shortfalls.

A model of social work practice is being implemented and staff have been trained to strengthen the analysis of risk within assessments.

The recruitment and retention of workers is being prioritised by the council to reduce caseloads, and a commitment has been made to establishing caseloads of 20 per worker.

In the majority of cases sampled, work was being managed at the right level of intervention.

Assessment timescales are showing recent signs of improvement.

However, caseloads remain high in some teams and this has had an impact on the timely allocation of work and on the progression of plans. In response to pressures in the short term, additional agency workers and an additional team of workers have been employed to work with the backlog of cases, and this is now much reduced.

The quality of assessments is not consistently good, although some good practice was seen. Children’s plans are not yet of a good enough quality for all children, the report said.

"Social workers report that they receive regular supervision, but this is not consistently recorded or evidenced on children’s files. On the whole, staff were positive about working for the service and were looking forward to further changes to the electronic system and the full implementation of the new model of practice. However, understandably for some staff, morale is lower where caseloads remain higher," the report concluded.

Ofsted recommended that Durham addresses the consistency of allocation of cases awaiting social work assessment. The recording of the rationale for case decisions, and management direction needs work.

Durham should look at the reduction in delay for children at key threshold points to support a timely social work response, the quality of planning and social work plans and the recording of children’s experiences in order to support accountability, effective planning, monitoring and challenge.

Focused visit to Durham local authority children’s services

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

26 calls per day to helpline about CSE

30/11/2021

There have been 26 contacts to the NSPCC helpline a day on average from people concerned about child sexual exploitation and abuse.

This reached a record high of 4,735 reports from people concerned that a child is or has been sexually exploited and/or abused, a 36% increase in the first six months of 2021/22 when [...]

Read Full Story

Expert children’s professionals who are expert bakers

30/11/2021

The Great British Bake Off team has contacted WillisPalmer to see if we know any professionals working in the children’s services sector who fancy applying to appear on the show next year.

The Bake Off, which airs on Channel 4, is asking if you have got what it takes to bake in the tent as [...]

Read Full Story

Number of local authority-run children’s homes decreases

30/11/2021

The number of children’s homes in the private and voluntary sector has increased, while the number of local-authority run residential homes for children has decreased, the latest statistics reveal.

Ofsted’s report showed that between 1 April and 31 August 2021, there was a net increase of 69 homes representing a 3% increase from 2,707 to [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
Delivering a diverse, reliable range of services to children and their families across the UK
D1, Parkside, Knowledge Gateway, Nesfield Road, Colchester, Essex CO4 3ZL
Contact Us
WP Quality Assured

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

closechevron-downbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram