After two consecutive inadequate OFSTED inspection ratings, Torbay Children’s Services is now progressing well in its improvement journey working in partnership with Hampshire County Council, as the DfE appointed improvement partner. Following their most recent monitoring visit, OFSTED concluded that the ‘Senior Leadership Team is now well placed to continue to deliver the ambitious and well targeted plan.’
Our improvement plan is indeed deliberately ambitious and is being overseen by a multi-agency Children’s Improvement Board. However whilst ‘getting out of inadequate’ is of course a key priority, improvements in our social care practice are being designed to demonstrably improve the outcomes and life chances of our most vulnerable children, young people and their families. This has required a shift in our organisational culture and our staff are rising to the challenge.
Torbay is a beautiful part of the country to live. However behind the English Riviera holiday resort image, Torbay has significant areas of deprivation and poverty and growing numbers of children and young people with additional and complex needs.
In Torbay we see our staff as a crucial element of our improvement journey and so we have invested significantly in this area. Teams are smaller and as a result staff are more effectively supervised and supported, caseloads are manageable, there is good administrative support and a keen focus on continual professional development for experienced social workers and a specialist induction programme for all newly qualified staff. New staff can take part in our talent management programme, social work staff have their own desk space, the salary is competitive, there is subsidised parking and all the cutting edge technology (lap top, IPAD and Iphone) needed to work in this rewarding field.
The following areas of work are delivered by social care services and managed by Heads of Service:
Heads of Service
This is the central point of access for all new contacts into Children’s Services. Contacts are screened using clearly defined Threshold Criteria and a judgement is made regarding the level of presenting need and vulnerability. Once a decision is made to convert a contact into a referral it will either be signposted to other community services, progressed for early help assessment and intervention or progressed to our Single Assessment Teams for statutory assessment.
These teams undertake all new single assessments, undertake Section 47 investigations and take cases, where appropriate, to an Initial Child Protection Conference. Other cases may go on to require a Child in Need Plan. Having defined a need for ongoing support from Children’s Social Care, the case then generally moves into the Safeguarding and Supporting Families Service.
These teams manage child protection cases, cases in legal proceedings and Child In Need (CIN) cases.
This team has all the responsibilities of a Safeguarding and Supporting Families Team, but has additional expertise in relation to disabled children who meet the eligibility for services from this team.
This team is responsible for providing a social work service for all children who are looked after by the local authority and have a plan for permanence.
Torbay Fostering Service provides a comprehensive fostering package across the area of Torbay. The service recruits foster carers and undertakes training and assessment. The service also manages the Fostering Panel which meets monthly. Approved foster carers are provided with support, supervision and training on an ongoing basis whilst they are approved foster carers for Torbay.
The fostering service also supports a number of specialist areas including family to family carers (short break carers for disabled children), private fostering assessments, Connected People Assessments and Special Guardianship Assessments.
Torbay Adoption Service provides a comprehensive adoption package across the area of Torbay and often working with adopters outside the region. Approved adopters are provided with support and training on an ongoing basis whilst they are approved adopters for Torbay. The service has specific family finders for matching Torbay children with permanent families. This may involve finding families from across the country. The adoption service also has a range of support services and these include life story work with children, therapeutic work, counselling for adopted adults and birth parent support. The Adoption Service also manages all post adoption contact and the “letter box” service. Additionally the service offers a specialised Post Adoption Support Service to children and their adopted families. Torbay is involved in discussions about creating a Regional Adoption Agency with four other local authorities.
This unit provides Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) who independently chair Child Protection Conferences and Statutory Reviews for Looked After Children. The Unit also monitors and reviews child protection and children in need policies, procedures and practices and is the scrutiny and challenge arm of service delivery in these areas. IROs ensure the involvement of parents/carers and children/young people at meetings, by promoting standards which enable their views to be heard and collated. The unit also facilitates open and effective communication networks, both internally and externally and manages allegations which are made about staff and volunteers (LADO).
A recently appointed Quality Assurance Manager leads on audit activity across Children’s Services. The unit also takes the lead on Workforce Development and Service Planning for Children’s Services in particular.
This service brings together voluntary, independent and statutory services for young people is designed to provide targeted youth support and youth offending services. This service provides support to our care leavers, homeless young people and those who have entered, or at risk of entering, the youth justice system.
Early Help Services are currently being re-designed so that they are targeted at those who do not meet the criteria for support from statutory services, but have complex needs that require coordinated support from more than one service.
This is a new team designed to find placements, thus removing this task from Social Workers. This team also deals with market engagement and contracting, so that front line staff can get on with the task of working directly with families.
There are currently a number of additional teams designed to support the social work task, particularly around parenting assessments, supervising contact, and providing direct intervention at points of crisis, eg, risk of coming into care, potential placement breakdown etc. These services are currently under review so that they can operate as efficiently as possible, going forward.
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