The Board received a presentation which informed of the changes to statutory duties to children and young people and the reform of social work outlined in the Children and Social Work Act 2017.
The presentation focussed on the key areas as follows:
· Corporate parenting principles and children in care duties;
· Education duties to previously looked after children;
· The expansion of care leaver duties;
· The abolition of the Safeguarding Children’s Board;
· Further regulation of social work; and
· Compulsory relationship and sex education in schools.
The changes introduced by the Children and Social Work Act 2017 were discussed in the report. It was noted that statutory regulations that outlined in more detail the impact and implementation of the specific changes would be published later in the year, for consultation before formal implementation of the relevant parts of the Act.
Members raised the following points after the presentation:
Was it possible to have stability in corporate parenting principles, one example would be the same one social worker throughout a child in care’s life?
Yes it was possible although extremely challenging. On average a social worker stayed in their job for only 7 ½ years, probably due to the nature of the work, high caseloads and the demands of the job. They were a young workforce with a high turnover. It was noted that local authorities needed to do more to support them with these difficult aspects of the job.
Will the introduction of the accreditation help improve the quality of the workforce?
It was too early to tell if the accreditation would add any value as the results of the pilot had been vague.
It was suggested by Members that the accreditation should be mandatory to avoid having two tiers of qualified social workers.
Clarity between the 3 safeguarding parties was queried and if for example a child was out of Borough, how would this relationship work?
This would not be clear until the regulations had been published. At the moment the children would still be monitored by the Safeguarding Board. If a child was being looked after in Halton they would be treated as Halton’s child.
Members raised concerns over the cost to the Authority that these statutory changes would bring with them, and that many schools were already in financial trouble
There was no reference to the changes in the Funding Formula and it was understood that the cost of qualified social workers may rise. It was important to note that until the regulations were published there could be no clarity over this.
With regards to the compulsory relationship education – would parents be given the opportunity to opt out for their child?
This would be applied to all schools and did not give exceptions at the moment, although it is expected that there would be some.
What control does the LA have over privately owned children’s care homes and the staff they employed?
Ofsted are the body responsible for managing twice yearly inspections and had the power to close down a home that failed an inspection. It was noted however, that if the LA had any concerns over a particular care home, they could forward these to Ofsted.
Members were also advised that a provider network was in place and that the LA did its best to influence the practice of providers. It was confirmed that other LA’s were required to notify Halton if they placed one of their children in a private care home in Halton.
As the safeguarding arrangements are to come in place by 2018, will the regulations be out in time for the 3 safeguarding parties?
They should be but this was not confirmed.
Was there scope for Halton to have a variation of its own Safeguarding Board?
Yes Halton would have the same model but with different chairing arrangements. It was commented that without a statutory power partners may not engage in the same way with the three safeguarding parties.
How were Halton doing with regards to its corporate parenting principles – it would be nice to hear feedback?
These have been refreshed after consultation with the care leavers. Members would be advised of consultation responses and presented with the revised charter.
The Chair requested that reports are submitted to the Board as the Act progresses.
RESOLVED: That Members note the changes to statutory duties.