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Case Study: South East Council

THE BRIEF


In response to the Ofsted findings in October 2010, the South East council set out an indicative plan of action to address the areas of the shortcomings and weaknesses that had been identified. The council faced a need for targeted intervention and initiated a specific commissioning process to address concerns regarding unallocated cases. Further to this, Ofsted’s unannounced inspection of the duty and assessment service in August 2010 suggested priority action on the lack of timely assessments in a small number of cases, acknowledging this was due to pressures because of a significant rise in referrals.

Having issued its tender and specification inviting private sector agencies to apply, the council narrowed the applications down to three companies, who were asked to bid for three separate geographical areas. Subsequently, Sanctuary was awarded all three parts of the tender and was commissioned to cover all three areas.

WHAT WE DID


Sanctuary resourced the project with a team of 30 practitioners and 6 managers, drawing on our fully managed service to retain quality assurance, management and supervisory oversight of the strategic and operational delivery.

This involved:
  • Completing the backlog of initial assessments on assigned cases. Where inappropriate cases had been assigned, Sanctuary’s team managers and the District Manager discussed handover points. Further case advice and training was provided by to the South East council to enable these handover discussions. We also identified and provided additional training to resolve the ICS issues.
  • Clearing the backlog and updating/completing current core assessments on assigned cases. As part of this work managers were instructed to clearly identify a clear case outcome plan and secure agreement with the District Manager. This included handover and closure intentions.
  • Progressing the work to safely and appropriately close cases. Managers were instructed both by their District Manager and by Sanctuary to record on ICS reasons for any delay and report these to the District Manager, so that solutions could be identified and incorporated as appropriate in any case management decisions.
  • Sanctuary’s team managers identifying the numbers of cases that required immediate safeguarding action to the District Managers.
  • Sanctuary’s team managers setting out what actions had been taken to cover any unresolved Child Protection issues and communicate these actions to the District Managers as part of the case management supervision schedules. These discussions included any cases that progressed to section 47.

QUALITY ASSURANCE & MANAGEMENT SUPPORT


Sanctuary agreed to directly support the delivery of the service by ensuring quality assurance measures were in place. We also established management support systems to strengthen the communications and ensure HR and the personal support needs of managers were met, allowing realistic performance targets and success measures to guide service delivery.

These measures built on the set expectations of the contract by:
  • Enabling coaching and opportunities for reflective practice with Sanctuary’s managers across the regions sharing their experience and knowledge
  • Sanctuary conducting a programme of monthly “welfare supervision” and where appropriate liaising with the head of service
  • Meeting with individual managers to resolve generic practice and personal support needs challenges
  • Working closely with the council's project manager, closing any gaps in communications
  • Completing case file audits
  • Developing an exit strategy to safely manage the close of the project in partnership with the South East council

THE RESULTS


Ofsted’s unannounced inspection in October 2011 noted that the council had tackled all of the areas of concern highlighted in their report in 2010, drawing reference to the council making significant progress in recruiting social workers and reducing the number of unallocated cases. Further to this, regarding the backlog of unallocated cases where children had not been assigned a dedicated social worker, Ofsted stated that, "significant progress has been made".

Sanctuary recognises the efforts of working in partnership with the South East council in achieving this accomplishment and the importance of collaboration in safeguarding children. The project gave consideration to efficiency implications for the future provision of services by facilitating a strong partnership between all partner agencies.

Economies of scale meant Sanctuary proved affordable to the South East council and the time limited and task focused nature of the project enabled a more reliable service than using agency workers. Sanctuary’s service was tailored for the South East council and allowed for a full-service approach, which meant that pressure could be taken off the 'front door' without creating a sudden influx of work for other teams once assessments were completed.

Overall the project was delivered to the contract objectives, within the timescale and under budget. The quality of resource resulted in 13 social workers from our project teams remaining as locums after the project for continued support. One of our team managers is now the Interim Team Manager for LAC in the South East council.