Children’s social care peer challenge reported to Cabinet

Cabinet members will receive a report informing them of the findings from a recent sector-led, peer challenge of the ‘front door’ to services for children in need of help or protection in Barnsley.

The ‘front door’ in a social care context is the arrangement that local authorities have in place to respond to an initial contact from a professional or member of the public who is concerned about a child.

At the front door, local authorities provide advice and make decisions about how they will act on information about the health, well-being and safety of children.

The council, with the agreement of partners, engaged East Riding of Yorkshire

Council to conduct the peer challenge, which took place in June this year and was led by Pete Dwyer CBE, a former Corporate Director for Children and Young People’s Services at North Yorkshire County Council.

The scope of the peer challenge was to critically appraise the efficiency and effectiveness of Barnsley’s children’s social care ‘front door’ arrangements, leading to the identification of any strengths and areas for consideration.

The peer challenge team spent a maximum amount of time with local Integrated Front Door Teams, observing decision making, assessments and scrutinising case files. An in depth audit of 20 cases was also completed.

The team also observed live practice by visiting children and families, with social workers, whilst further on-site activity included discussions with managers, practitioners and partners.

The outcome of the Peer Challenge was very positive and findings included:

  • Early help is having a significant and positive impact in preventing children from
  • needing to be referred to social care.
  • Decision making at the ‘Front Door’ is strong and consistent.
  • Assessments were of an extremely high quality, demonstrating effective partnership working and information sharing as well as a focus upon the experience of the child.
  • Barnsley’s children’s social care workforce is experienced, confident and consider themselves to be well supported in their work.
  • There is strong, visible and supportive leadership

The Peer Challenge also suggested areas for further consideration including considering how the views of young, pre-verbal children can better be captured.

Cllr Margaret Bruff, Cabinet Spokesperson for People, (Safeguarding) said: “The Peer Challenge has provided us with assurance that vulnerable children in need of help or protection are being provided with an effective service which places their wellbeing at the centre of decision-making and is capable of improving the range of outcomes.

“The peer reviewers commented favourably on the skills and stability of the child and family social care workforce, together with the calibre of leadership and the quality of supervision. Peer Reviewers considered that these factors contributed significantly to the improvement of outcomes for vulnerable children in the borough.”

The report can be read in full here

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