Improvements are being made in services for children and young people in County Durham. Durham County Council identified ways to improve its services for children and young people and its Cabinet will next week hear that the majority of the action points are either completed or on target. Following last year’s Ofsted inspection of children’s services, actions were identified under four themes: strengthening management and staffing capacity; strengthening political and management oversight; improving the quality of practice; and compliance with regulations. The meeting will next week hear how good progress is being made. In terms of strengthening management and staffing capacity, there is more stability in the workforce with reductions in turnover and vacancy rates, as well as in sickness absence. The council has also implemented a number of initiatives to recruit, develop and retain social workers and managers.

A Social Work Academy has been set up to support 12 newly qualified social workers while a further 24 newly qualified social workers have also been employed. A management training programme has also been established alongside a course for aspiring managers. The council also plans to host four students who want Services for Children & Young People Improve to become social workers as part of the Frontline programme and is developing a social work apprenticeship programme. In terms of strengthening political and management oversight, the council is in the process of introducing a new system for children’s services social care records, with staff having visited local authorities with leading children’s IT systems to help identify the most suitable model. In relation to improving the quality of practice, the council has revised standards for assessment and planning, developed a key reference tool for evaluating casework activity for practitioners and managers, and delivered training and support through workshops on how to carry out assessments. In recent months, the focus on quality of practice has brought national recognition for the council.

West Rainton Children’s Home won the public sector children’s team award at the Local Government Children and Young People Now 2016 Awards while the council’s Supporting Young People with a Cancer Caring Role was highly commended in the young carers award category. The action plan was produced in response to the findings of last February’s Ofsted inspection which made 14 recommendations. Cllr Ossie Johnson, portfolio holder for children and young people’s services, said: “significant progress has been made in the last year to the point where we are recruiting more and more social workers and where our focus on quality of practice has seen us afforded national recognition. “However we recognise there is still room for improvement and we will continue to work
steadfastly to improve the lives of our children and young people.” The council’s Cabinet, which meets on 18 January, is being recommended to agree to receive further updates in relation to children and young people’s services on a six monthly basis.