Director of children’s services Stuart Smith says council is making ‘significant progress’

Stuart Smith, Calderdale Council's director of children and young people's services.
Stuart Smith, Calderdale Council's director of children and young people's services.

In 2010 Calderdale Council was issued a notice to improve children’s social care.

Through strong support from our staff, our Councillors and our partners, including the Police and Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board, we have made significant progress.

Ofsted and our peers have regularly checked our improvements and recommended changes. We’ve listened and acted promptly.

We have improved in many areas, including fostering, adoption, working with disabled children, long term care and early intervention. We have an excellent team of managers and leaders and the Leadership shown by Councillors has been recognised. Their commitment, support and hard work have been invaluable.

However, there is still some way to go to get consistently high quality practice across all our teams. We’re proud of how far we’ve come but know that unless every aspect of what we do is adequate, none of it is. That’s tough but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Children in Calderdale deserve the best care and we’re determined they get it.

We are committed to a constant cycle of improvement, that we spot weaknesses and put them right; we enable children to have a say; that we get our records right, especially our plans for each child’s future; we make sure records are up-to-date and work is done promptly; that managers check actions and work is signed off more consistently. We need to work even closer with partners such as the Police, health services, schools and voluntary organisations.

We are really disappointed Ofsted judged our quality of practice as unsatisfactory as this overshadows all the good progress we have made across the services. We are determined to improve all our practice as a matter of urgency.

After the inspection we reviewed every case within our intake team to double check we’re doing everything we can to keep children safe. It is reassuring to find that no children were unsafe, but we accept that in about half of the intake cases the recording and timeliness of actions were not as good as they should be.

We are correcting these issues immediately. Where demand for our services has gone up in large numbers, we have increased the size of the team of social workers.

We were optimistic that the Improvement notice from the education department would have been withdrawn by now and it is disappointing that the quality of practice is not yet at an acceptable standard across every area. We are committed to driving forward regular improvements and I know our partners and all our social workers and family support staff are working together to reach good standards of service delivery as quickly as possible.

We’ve worked hard to build great teams of skilled, experienced and hard working social care professionals. But we need more. We are taking part in a regional social worker recruitment programme. If you are a social worker and are thinking of coming back into the profession or are interested in joining us, please get in touch.