By Bill Heaney
Artwork by Jane Heaney
West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s new chairperson has accused the former SNP administration of taking chances with the lives of young people following a damning report on services for children at risk of harm.
The Care Inspectorate report was published on Tuesday, May 24th and criticised West Dunbartonshire’s strategic leadership.
Newly-appointed HSCP Chair and Deputy Council Leader of the new Labour administration, Councillor Michelle McGinty has said that the failings are down to the SNP leadership abandoning key roles in a bid to evade scrutiny.
The Care Inspectorate found that the use of data has not had dedicated focus or a data analyst to consider and routinely present data to the committee which is considered and bench-marked.
Labour Cllr Michelle McGinty and failed SNP leader Cllr Jonathan McColl.
Setting targets and ensuring accountability across the partnership to understand performance and improvement requires to be further developed and the plans that sit across the Community Planning Partnership need to set out the clarity of shared understanding and objectives and most importantly have measures to demonstrate the impact for children and young people.
She said: “This is a damning report and shows the poor leadership by the previous SNP councillors. We simply can’t take chances with the lives of young people in our care or receiving help and support from strategic partners however that is exactly what the SNP administration has done.
“The former SNP leader Jonathan McColl abandoned the chair of the community planning partnership leaving the key leadership and scrutiny role to others.
“At the same time the previous SNP chair of the HSCP, Marie McNair jumped ship to join the Scottish Parliament and left the HSCP to flounder under an independent councillor’s leadership. This particular councillor made sure his voice was heard but who continuously cut short other members’ points during meetings citing time pressures as the reason for this.
Audio minutes for these meetings were never available online, further evidencing a lack of scrutiny and accountability. Health and social care services are at the heart of our communities and have been particularly so during the pandemic. The people of West Dunbartonshire have a right to hear what decisions are being taken and why.
“This is the fourth highly critical inspection report that the SNP have had over recent years. Previously the Council was criticised over failings related to self-directed care, a key Scottish Government initiative, and in elements of criminal justice services including issues with community payback and community service and in January this year they reported on significant failings in the Adoption and Fostering Service.
Previously the Council was criticised over failings related to self-directed care, a key Scottish Government initiative, and in elements of criminal justice services including issues with community payback and community service and in January this year they reported on significant failings in the Adoption and Fostering Service.
“The Care Inspectorate Report on services for children at risk of harm in West Dunbartonshire is the most worrying to date and is particularly concerning given the vulnerability of the client group and the potential level of harm if we can’t demonstrate proper support for our young people at risk of harm to the required standards.
“Under Labour’s leadership we will ensure that effective action plans are put in place and that any required improvements and protection is put in place.
“We are always talking about people centred services and I will ensure that children and young people’s views are at the heart of our services. This is just one of the criticisms of the previous SNP administration and one which we are determined to fix. Young people have strong voices. They must have a say in their own care and their own futures.”
1. This is an interim (Phase 1 and 2) report and the Care Inspectorate plan to continue to work with the Children’s Services element of the Community Planning Partnership over an ‘indeterminate period of time’ when a final report will be published. This is a departure from the usual method adopted by the Care Inspectorate.
2. The Inspection process started in October 2021 and was only partially able to be completed due to the pandemic.
a. The focus groups with children’s families and young people did not take place due to a further wave of the pandemic.
b. Focus groups with staff and practitioners were also cancelled.
c. Focus groups of partnership forums such as PPCOG did not take place and therefore no evaluations of impact of services were made.
3. The ‘concerns’ referred to in the report are in relation to all concerns reported in relation to children and young people in West Dunbartonshire. These concerns/referrals routinely come from Police, Health Visitor, schools, public or indeed anyone who is concerned about a child to social work services.
4. The inspection looked at a sample of case records over a 2-year period as covered in more detail in the briefing, so the concern for a child could have been any point within the 2-year period of inspection. Importantly effective responses to the concerns reported for children are positive.
5. Inspections always consider how children have been enabled to develop continuity of trusting relationships as part of inspection and as you identify this is a positive finding.
6. Staff reported in staff surveys high levels of skill and confidence in the main when undertaking their role and practice.
7. The case file reading sampled records from Police, Education, Social Work, Healthand SCRA. The audit identified that the practice evidenced in records did not correlate with staff’s perception, that they were highly skilled in their role in supporting children and young people.
8. The quality of assessments, plans, use of chronologies and analysis of children’s lived experience was lacking as was inclusion of children’s views.
9. The case file reading identified these practice areas as ‘adequate’ on a six-point scale from weak to excellent.
10. The Care Inspectorate did provide detail of the file reading audit separately in November 2021 by way of feedback. This relates to children’s multi-agency planning and ensuring that outcomes for children are measurable and improved.
11. There was little evidence of children’s views being solicited or taken into account when decisions were made that affected them. This may be a recording issue in relation to capturing children’s views, it should be noted during the pandemic there has been disruption to children’s meetings which ceased to take place face to face.
12. The re- launch of Viewpoint (tool for capturing children’s views) to ensure children’s views are evidenced is being progressed as well as ensuring full minuting capacity and digital solutions are put in place.
13. Quality assurance needs to be improved as does ensuring children’s plans have measurable outcomes to report against. Additional appointments to strengthen scrutiny of children’s plans has been agreed to improve the focus on outcomes for children and young people.
14. A review of GIRFEC and associated reporting and recording templates is also contained in the inspection action plan. Learning and development for existing chairs of multi-agency meetings is in place as is increased audit activity of records to support learning and development of staff.
15. Use of data has not had dedicated focus or a data analyst to consider and routinely present data to Committee which is considered and bench-marked. Setting targets and ensuring accountability across the partnership to understand performance and improvement requires to be further developed and is now being taken forward by the CP lead officer and a multi-agency group to review data prior to Committee. Increasing Committee to 6 sessions from 4 is currently being considered to ensure capacity, pace and improvement is being effectively led.
16. Cross referencing of key data sets across the partnership and using a single framework for improvement is required to connect the various activities taking place in strategic groups and services. The Care Inspectorate Quality Improvement Framework model has been adopted and agreed across the children’s services element of the Community Planning Partnership. Collaboration and sharing of resources with a strengthened focus on outcomes not activity, to ensure we measure distance travelled against the key outcomes across the partnership.
17. Staff expressed confidence in the survey, however the practice standards did not equate to the confidence and skill staff self-reported. The report highlights a dissonance between management feedback, scrutiny, and developments of staff to ensure consistent high quality practice standards are achieved.
18. Further audit of IRD has taken place by the Lead Officer for Child Protection since the records were audited by the Care Inspectorate. Delays in IRD’s continue to be evidenced but records do not identify why this is the case, IRD’s are taking place between 1-10 days of a concern being reported. Crucially, all safe planning arrangements from reported child concerns were evidenced as in place. A report is going to June CPC in relation to the full audit with further actions required across partner’s agency to understand what is
contributing to delays taking place in the planning of IRDs and the current processes in how they are scheduled by partners.
19. These were Children’s multi-agency planning reviews: outcomes not specified; children voice; and input as well as families not clear; SMART clear and informed by services user with measurable outcomes are key areas for practice improvement and needs to be supported by Chairs. Learning and development sessions are scheduled for Chairs to drive forward standards of planning and decision making and participation as well as appointments of an Independent Chair for Looked After Children.
20. An audit and quality assurance post is being recruited to, to support planned routine audit and upskill operation management leads to support this activity which to be balanced has not been able to be prioritised by services through the last two years of the pandemic,as with many other community planning partnership areas.
21. There has been significant improvement in both reducing the numbers of CAMHS
waiting and how long they are waiting for across West Dunbartonshire over the last 3 years.
This illustrates an improvement trend we should be able to evidence and demonstrate in
relation to impact as a quantitative measure.
22. Children’s views were not always visible in case records; attending meetings routinely; or having their views actively sought and considered during meetings. There is limited evidence, but it is not fully embedded in key practice process to ensure children’s voices are central to planning and ensuring the outcomes for children and young people are improved.
23. There are pockets of activity in relation to service co-design and inclusion of young people being involved in consultation to support service development. Understandably services have not being focusing on development in last 2 years of the pandemic, but service user consultation in shaping services is limited. The role of the Champions Board is supporting co-design and will be embedded in any transformation and service re-design going forward.
24. Plans that sit across the Community Planning Partnership need to set out the clarity of shared understanding and objectives and most importantly have measures to demonstrate the impact for children and young people.
25. Practice across the Partnerships requires to be clear and understood. Training and support for managers and leaders is imperative in ensuring the quality assurance role and practice standards are in place. No evaluative statement position was given.
Bill, I presume you’ll now welcome in the Council Chambers now, long before time.
I don’t expect a welcome Harry. I do expect that the usual courtesies be observed. And that Freedom of the Press extends to The Democrat. I am not in the business of making friends. The relationship between the press and politicians should be similar to that between a dog and a lamp post, according to the great iconoclast HL Mencken. I am proud to have made the SNP’s life difficult in view what has emerged about the not fit for purpose children’s services and deficiencies which led to deaths in care of the elderly during the Covid Pandemic. The sooner we consign McColl and his cronies to history the better. Bill