Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care
On 15 January, I reported to the Assembly on the progress made by Powys County Council in delivering improvements to Children’s Social Services, following the serious concerns identified in the inspection report published in October last year by Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW). On that day, I issued a Follow-Up Warning Notice to Powys County Council setting out further actions required to embed the early improvements that had been made by Powys Children’s Social Services in the medium and long term.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 requires Welsh Ministers to provide an update report to the National Assembly for Wales within 90 days of giving a Warning Notice. This written statement provides members with that update.
In compliance with the Follow-Up Warning Notice, Powys County Council has:
- Submitted its revised Improvement Plan on 23 January setting out the actions to be achieved over the next 6 months, 12 months and beyond.
- Addressed the findings of CIW’s December 2017 monitoring visit, set out in their letter of 4 January.
- Introduced a quality assurance framework to improve consistency and standards of frontline practice. All managers are expected to undertake comprehensive case file reviews, which include action plans to address noted deficits.
- Provided monthly reports on progress are submitted by the Interim Director to the Improvement Board, the Leader of the Council and Welsh Government.
- A new Improvement and Assurance Board has been established with a broader remit encompassing both corporate improvement and social services. The new Board has the dual role of holding the Council accountable for improvement and as well as offering advice to deliver improvement in both Social Services and the Council as a whole.
In March, CIW undertook a 3 day monitoring visit at Powys County Council which consisted of reviewing case files and speaking to frontline operational staff. The findings from CIW’s visit show an increased confidence in the local authority, with tangible steps taken to improve services. Increased corporate support has resulted in investment in additional resources to reduce caseloads and increase senior management capacity so that individual frontline staff and managers are better supported. Whilst performance has improved across some indicators further work is needed focussing on the timeliness and quality of support for children and families. CIW has since written to Powys County Council with its findings.
Whilst I am pleased that improvements are being made, I am determined to maintain close oversight of Powys Children’s Services until we reach a time where Care Inspectorate Wales and Welsh Ministers are satisfied the Council is delivering services to the standard and quality expected. With this in mind, I have decided to issue an addendum to the Follow-Up Warning Notice. The addendum formalises the requirements needed to continue Powys’ improvement journey, recognising that further work that is required over the short, medium and long term. The addendum to the Warning Notice is being laid before the National Assembly for Wales today (external link).
In previous statements, I have set out the formal package of support, under section 28 of the 2009 Local Government Measure, being provided to Powys’ governance and corporate centre. The package was developed following Sean Harriss’ report about the Council’s corporate governance arrangements. A further update on progress will be provided following the first meeting of the new Improvement and Assurance Board and the completion of the second phase of corporate support.
I wish to inform members that Care Inspectorate Wales has recently carried out its planned inspection of Powys County Council’s adult services. CIW intends to publish the report during the week commencing 30 April.