Effective leadership is evident at all levels with a highly skilled, well qualified and supported workforce working towards a shared vision
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we have continued to maintain our high standards of service provision, although it may have been delivered in a different way. All aspects of service delivery have continued including:
- Children’s Services Development work streams
- Safeguarding investigations
- Family contact for children and parents undergoing legal proceedings
- Fostering assessments
- Adoption transition plans
- Care leaver support
- Adult assessments
- Mental Health assessments
- Child Protection and Looked After Children reviews
There has of course been the added dimension of adherence to Covid-19 guidance, dynamic Covid-19 infection risk assessment and managing the safety of service users and staff members, as well as adapting practice to make best use of technology.
We have developed and implemented Covid-19 contingency and response plans to support the work we do both during these difficult times, and as we ease out of restrictions. We developed renewal/response plans in line with Welsh Government’s Covid-19 guidance. These plans outline what the services’ priorities will be as we transition through the tiers, including dependencies and resource implications.
As we move through each stage of renewal/response, the service continues to monitor and respond to the needs of adults, families and their carers. We seek regular feedback from staff as to how the plans are implemented in practice and any issues. The Social Care Senior Management Team maintain oversight of these plans and sign off any changes where required (including input from Corporate Health & Safety).
The Social Care Renewal Group continues to meet on a weekly basis to share good practice and raise operational issues/queries for escalation through the Social Care Management Team and Corporate Renewal Programme where appropriate. We remain heavily involved in the Corporate Renewal Programme to ensure links between the service and the wider Council are managed and key information is shared with the service as it’s made available.
Our Covid-19 Response: PPE
It became apparent at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that we would need to put arrangements in place to ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was available in large quantities for our social care providers and schools. At the end of February a dedicated e-mail and telephone line were set up and manned by employees who were redeployed from other CCBC roles. They triaged all incoming requests for PPE on a case by case basis and arranged delivery as part of a 24-hour service.
Initially, supplies of PPE were very low, and deliveries via the national supply chain remained unpredictable, so there was a need for contingency planning and for stock control systems to be put in place. As prevalence of the virus escalated there were key changes to regulations, and during the Easter 2020 weekend there was an exercise to distribute PPE to every provider in the county. This coincided with an audit undertaken by the Army which was extremely positive about the approach we had in place.
After reviewing our working practices, we changed that approach in order to respond to the ever-evolving situation, moving to weekly requisitions and ordering processes, ensuring that our Direct Payments clients’ needs were met, and involving colleagues from our in-house domiciliary service to provide oversight and support the distribution process.
Our operations had developed further by summer 2020:
- The interim role of our PPE officer was formally created
- Our advice/enquiries line saw a reduction in demand and was transferred to our Single Point of Access team for members of the public
- A second Army audit was undertaken which was, again, very positive about our controls and working practices
- Operations moved to Mochdre Commerce Park in August
- Our scope of supply and distribution extended to support the re-opening of schools and childcare
- As leisure centres reopened Leisure Services drivers were replaced with social care drivers
By the end of 2020 we were providing PPE to:
- All social care providers, including domiciliary, residential and nursing, supported living and Extra Care Housing schemes (both internal and external)
- Carers and Direct Payments clients
- All social care teams, whether providing direct or indirect care
- All schools and special schools services, including music services and outdoor activities
- All childminders and day care provision, including after-school
- Anyone else in need! PPE has been provided to registrars for death-bed weddings, to Health and Safety colleagues, and supported other initiatives such as distribution and collection of iPads
We were also distributing Lateral Flow Tests to domiciliary care teams.
As we have entered the new year there has been a need to scale up further, meaning that colleagues from other service areas have become involved.
- Our Quality Standards Service has brought in additional support to manage the requisition process.
- There is additional support for packaging and distribution from a colleague normally employed in Theatr Colwyn.
- A new member of the Education Service has joined the team to oversee and smooth the process, providing risk management for schools.
- We are now managing the stock and distribution of test kits.
- We are continuing to support the distribution/collection of iPads to and from care homes alongside our commissioning team. This has helped residents keep in contact with their families.
So far we have distributed 1.7 million pairs of gloves, 1.6 million masks, 1.6 million aprons, 29,000 reusable goggles and 17,000 visors.
Through our flexible approach we will continue to provide PPE support as the Covid-19 pandemic progresses, responding to need as required.
Setting up our Staffing Hub
It was clear from the increasing severity of the Covid-19 pandemic that we would need to put additional measures in place to capture staff absence data, ensure that we had sufficient cover to provide front-line services and increase resilience in the event of an outbreak.
A Staffing Hub was set up, comprising colleagues from various Business Support teams to monitor activity, run reports and provide assistance to managers to record accurate data. The hub was tasked with:
- Managing the redeployment process to allow Conwy staff to transfer temporarily from one department to another to provide support. This involved receiving redeployment requests from services and appropriately matching and supporting staff through the process.
- Managing the absence recording process.
- Receiving, monitoring, analysing and acting upon daily workforce data and intelligence.
- Responding to workforce concerns arising from the social care sector.
Through the hub’s involvement we were able to ensure the business continuity of critical services by:
- Ensuring the accuracy of recording when colleagues began periods of self-isolation and then returned to work.
- Prompting managers to undertake welfare checks before their staff returned to work.
- Being able to accurately report on all staff available on any given day.
What were the challenges?
Ensuring that staff were fully prepared and supported for redeployment, especially if they were not currently undertaking a social care role. We mitigated this by providing online training resources so that staff on the redeployment list could familiarise themselves with what might be required of them, should they be placed in a care home or domiciliary care role at short notice.
Due to the success of the hub in terms of data accuracy, the proposal is to centralise the inputting and monitoring of absence on a permanent basis.
Devising a learning and support plan for redeployed staff
The Core Learning Plan for Conwy County Borough Council internal staff was developed to support the redeployment of staff into critical service areas. The following learning modules were put together as a minimum response to the impact on the workforce from Covid-19. The modules were made available online as all face to face training had been suspended. Key topic areas were:
- Care: The essentials
- Basic first aid
- Food hygiene
- Infection control
The core training package takes approximately four to five hours to complete.
In addition to the learning modules we also provided staff with online and virtual briefings to prepare them for redeployment; these focused on:
- What staff might be faced with in care settings
- How to handle various situations
What were the challenges?
We had to ensure that staff were competent to go into a work situation where Covid-19 was present. It was also challenging to move from a reliance on face to face training to delivering virtual learning.
As a result of this work our learning programme for 2021-22 is a blended programme comprising:
- Critical health and safety delivered face to face
- Virtual learning
This blended approach resulted in our learning programme becoming more accessible to workers from different geographical areas.
Accessing bank staff to support our residential homes
The pandemic has created an urgent and unforeseen shortage of care workers within care homes across the North Wales region. Recognising this significant risk meant that we could mitigate against serious disruption to the provision of both health and social care services within care home settings.
Under the governance of the North Wales Workforce Board, the local authorities and BCUHB, through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), agreed to deploy BCUHB bank staff on a peripatetic basis to support care home resilience. This workforce would only be utilised in the event of a high risk of care home failure to continue to provide care due to circumstances related to Covid-19.
For the period December-January when Covid-19 cases peaked in North Wales, sustainability of the care home workforce became a significant risk for the region’s local authorities and for BCUHB. These formal arrangements helped to avert the potential failure of care homes, which could have resulted in having to move residents.
Conwy acted as lead local authority for North Wales in working with BCUHB to establish these arrangements.
What were the challenges?
In considering options to provide bank staff from BCUHB to care homes, a number of key issues were identified to be resolved:
- Agree clear and transparent terms and conditions for any BCUHB bank worker to work to when working in a care home
- Safe employment checks for the bank workforce, to the same standard as any substantive employee
- Governance of staff deployed into care homes
- Ensuring bank staff were suitably prepared for working in a care setting
The solutions to these challenges were addressed in the joint MOU and supportive appendices, and endorsed by the following stakeholders:
- Welsh Risk Pool Leads
- Directors of Social Services for each authority in North Wales
This work has highlighted what can be achieved through mutual aid and collaboration. Workforce supply to social care and health is a live and ongoing issue. The next steps to be explored are:
- Development of a joint health and social care bank of staff
- Joint induction, learning and development programmes for bank staff
Service Renewal Project
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Conwy social care staff have been working seven days a week to ensure that we have responded appropriately to the various challenges which have arisen. There has been a sound governance process in place to ensure that Conwy has had a voice at regional forums, and daily calls with Health and other partnership colleagues to ensure relevant information is being shared at every level of development.
All operational processes have been developed using risk assessments, and there is a close working relationship with corporate Health and Safety to ensure we have considered all possible aspects. Virtual team meetings have taken place more frequently (weekly) to support business and practitioners’ wellbeing.
Delivery of Social Care services in Conwy did not cease as a result of Covid-19, and that is something Conwy are very proud of.
A Social Care Renewal Group has been established to review the key functions/activities within social care (both Adults and Children and Families). As part of this, a whole-workforce analysis has been undertaken to establish what service provision has continued to be delivered or ceased, and going forward how these services will be delivered.
From this analysis we have been able to identify how services have been able to continue some service delivery and challenge whether new working practices could be implemented as ‘business as usual’.
We have been working on developing renewal plans in line with WG’s traffic light pathway. These plans outline what the services’ priorities will be as we transition through the traffic light pathway, including dependencies and resource implications.
As we move through each stage of renewal, the service continues to monitor and respond to the needs of the adults, families and their carers. We seek regular feedback from staff as to how the plans are implemented in practice and any issues encountered. The Social Care Senior Management Team maintain oversight of these plans and sign off any changes where required.
The Social Care Renewal Group continues to meet on a weekly basis to share good practice and raise operational issues/queries for escalation through the Social Care Management Team and Corporate Renewal Programme where appropriate.
Conwy social care remain heavily involved in the Corporate Renewal Programme to ensure links between the service and the wider Council are managed and key information is shared with the service as it’s made available.
Feedback on our in-house domiciliary and care home services
At the start of 2020 we sent a suite of questionnaires to staff and to the teams who work alongside us from Health and Social Care. A flavour of the results are below.
We asked staff who work at Llys Elian EMI residential home how they felt about their experiences of working there, and how they rate the service they provide. Overall we had a positive response, with 94% of
respondents scoring their service either four or five out of five.
The staff treat every resident as an individual as well as being treated as if they were a member of their own family.Llys Elian employee
Staff feel that they have a good relationship with their managers, and 100% of respondents believe that their contribution at work makes a difference to the individuals they support.
I feel like I make a difference to individuals and love to see them smile.Llys Elian employee
We asked teams who work with Llys Elian, from the local authority, Health Board, housing association and others to provide feedback from a customer perspective. 94% of respondents rated the service as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ in terms of responding in a timely manner to enquiries, and the same percentage agreed that Llys Elian staff were courteous when contacted.
100% of respondents agreed that our staff were competent in dealing with enquiries, and that they responded promptly and appropriately when concerns about individuals were raised.
The care and support provided is GOLD star. Everyone is cared for and supported to the highest level.
Everyone is engaged in producing the very best outcome for all the people that access this service. The shift pattern is brilliantly slick and with a quality handover by professionals that care for both staff and residents’ well-being.
We asked staff who work within our older people in-house domiciliary care services for feedback on their experiences. 89% rated their service either four or five out of five, and the supporting comments were overwhelmingly positive.
I think we provide a very good care service. We have excellent support from our managers which enables us to carry out our work to the best of our ability. We are constantly given training to keep us up to date with our skills and our service offers very good flexibility…..we have a good team of individuals who can offer reliability and effective care.
I feel that as a team we do an excellent job in providing a caring and compassionate service. Many of my colleagues go above and beyond their job description in these challenging times to ensure the well-being of our clients.
This cohort of staff identified technology as an area that could be improved. It should be noted that at the time of writing we are in the process of providing updated smartphones for staff who work out in the community, to replace technology which has become outdated. We are also looking at ways to provide community staff with more access to online training and devices to facilitate this.
Teams who work alongside the older people domiciliary team were asked for feedback on their performance. 94% rated the service as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ in responding to enquiries in a timely manner, and 100% agreed that staff were courteous and competent when contacted. 100% agreed that concerns regarding individuals accessing the service were dealt with promptly and appropriately, and that individuals were kept safe and their well-being supported during the pandemic.
Reablement care is a very good team but unfortunately, demand seems to exceed availability. Great team that provides an essential service.
We are very happy with the in-house domiciliary care service and have always had excellent working relationships with the team and their managers.
Staff from the disability in-house team were also asked for feedback on their service. 96% rated it four or five out of five, and the supporting comments are very positive.
The service is extremely proactive as well as being reactive when the needs arise. All staff work well as a team and have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to ensure service users’ support and emotional needs are met, as well as those of the staff.
100% of respondents felt that their contribution at work makes a difference to the individuals they support, with supporting comments highlighting how empowered staff feel to be able to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Many provided examples of support they were proud of having delivered, where the best possible outcome was achieved for the service user.
[The best part of my role is] seeing an individual grow in confidence and able to live on their own. Becoming independent and able to contribute to the local community.
Feedback received from colleagues in the wider disabilities service revealed that 100% of respondents rated the in-house service as ‘very good’ or good in all areas. Again, glowing feedback praises the team’s ability to adapt during the pandemic, and continue to offer a first class service to the individuals it supports.
Being flexible and adaptable is the key to this team being able to provide such a good service during these Covid restrictions. They are person-centred from the management to the staff in the community.
Passionate to give care and meet the clients’ needs at all times.
Supporting Conwy’s foster carers in their role
Our foster carers provide a valuable service, providing children and young people in Conwy with a safe and nurturing environment within long- and short-term placements. In December 2020 we asked our foster carers to share their experiences with us, via an electronic survey. 43 respondents provided us with valuable feedback on the fostering service, the support they receive to carry out their role, and how communicating throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has worked.
Of the foster carers who responded, 76% believe that the fostering service provide sufficient support for their family members to carry out their fostering role.
The level of my support has significantly improved over the past few years and I feel very well supported in my role by my supervising social worker.Foster carer
Importantly, most foster carers (91%) have found virtual supervision during the pandemic a positive experience, with 19% happy to carry on purely with online meetings, and a further 70% opting for a mixture of virtual and face to face sessions.
Virtual meetings save time and can fit into a foster carer’s busy day more easily.Foster carer
We feel that it is important that social workers visit the home to ensure the well-being of the foster carers and the young people living within the home.Foster carer
The fostering service was particularly encouraged that 93% of foster carers awarded 4 or 5 stars for their overall experience with the team, backed up by positive feedback and thanks for individual team members for their support. We’ll be sharing all of the comments with the team, and as always, looking at how we can improve our offer to foster carers to ensure that they continue to work with us.
WeCare Wales award
The WeCare Wales award was a new feature of the social care Accolades for 2020, focusing on individual care workers in Wales who have a positive impact on people’s lives. All of the finalists demonstrated professionalism and dedication in their respective roles, but it was one of Conwy’s foster carers, Sandra Stafford who emerged as the winner.
Sandra was nominated for the award by social workers within our fostering team who gave a warm assessment of her qualities.
Sandra and her husband Mark are exceptional foster carers who consistently demonstrate commitment, passion and a high quality of care to all the children they have cared for since 2001. They care for a child with complex disabilities and to this day, the child continues to amaze everyone around her as she makes remarkable progress. Sandra, as the main carer, is faced with daily challenges as she ensures that she meets the physical and emotional needs of the child, attends medical appointments and meetings, as well as supports and promotes contact with the birth family. Sandra makes it look so effortless, despite the lack of sleep. What Sandra and Mark provide this child is beyond a safe and loving home environment, she is provided with acceptance and opportunities to enjoy a second chance at life and meet her full potential.
Youth Justice Service developments
We have revisited the majority of policies and procedures relating to our statutory work and the five national standards set out by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). This was a significant undertaking that was prompted during the compilation of the self-assessment that we undertook of the five national standards.
Below is a list of the work undertaken through task and finish groups from April 2020 to date; this coincides with the changes made to service delivery as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- New induction policy with process for both new and existing staff and colleagues, incorporating policies and procedures relating to the statutory requirements and those set out by the YJB:
- Revised Appropriate Adult policy and procedure
- Out of Court disposals review
- Yellow card procedures reviewed and amended
- ABC contracts reintroduced with our seconded police officer as another preventative layer to prevent children being criminalised and to reduce the possibility of entering into statutory criminal justice services
- Community Safeguarding policy and procedures compiled
- Care-taking policy produced to ensure robust measures in place to scrutinise all transfers
- Referral Order process
- High Risk Review policy and process
- Detention and Training Order policy and process
- Youth Rehabilitation Order policy and process
- Breach procedures to include detailed timeframes against national standards
- Court process for both weekday and Saturday courts and court pack compiled
- Newsletter introduced to provide an overview of the service developments
- Service users participation in the development and publication of leaflets for key areas within Youth Justice Service
What were the challenges?
The organisation and distribution of managers and staff into task and finish groups with timeframes to meet deadlines on the above 15 areas. Even though the pandemic caused difficulties with meeting service performance measures we were able to deploy staff to assist elsewhere whilst affording time to actually develop our own service area (more on this below).
- Compile and agree a service level agreement (SLA) with Denbighshire Local Authority to provide a Youth Justice Service, where Conwy provide and deliver to Denbighshire via the SLA with a management charge and for Conwy to oversee the service in its entirety
- Procurement to purchase a new IT system to replace the existing Care-Works system/database
- Look at a holistic transition process for children reaching adulthood to ensure they have the statutory, preventative and third sector services in place prior to a transition out of our service to other areas
- Induction process for children and families who experience the custodial regime, to include language
- We will continue to look at creative ways to engage the community to support them so they see that we care and also so that our children and young people undertake work that shows worth to self and others. The pandemic has opened opportunities to look at different ways to engage the community and the children and families who access our services
- We have also applied a business case for funding through two streams to access 21 tablet devices to enable us to engage virtually, and also look at how to access more user participation for service development
- We are also working on a process that assists and prompts our service to undertake welfare catch-ups with children and families who are closed to our service at three, six, nine and twelve-month periods. We hope this will enable us to signpost, offer top-up interventions and be a transitioning arm where needed. This supports prevention and a further opportunity to transition where this is identified.
Redeployment of Youth Justice Service team members
We were able to redeploy team members into different areas of the department during the pandemic:
- Three members of staff for 60% of their time to devote to the Glan yr Afon children’s home due to staffing difficulties as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak at the setting.
- A social worker with previous experience in the service to support an increase in S47 enquires and investigations.
- The Service Manager supported the Emergency Duty Team and also provided an emergency accommodation pathway from April to September 2020, with additions and adaptations of accommodation to mitigate the risk of the pandemic.
What were the challenges?
Balancing the needs of the service whilst ensuring we provided detailed and consistent support to colleagues in other areas. We had to adapt to new service areas, trying to map out operations through the guidance of Care Inspectorate Wales, Public Health Wales, and that of the service.
Adopting new Welsh Government Code of Practice and Performance Management Framework
The new Welsh Government Code of Practice and Performance Management Framework were implemented as of 1 April 2020. The framework includes a new set of national performance measures, replacing our previous performance indicators. In order for us to adopt the new framework we have undertaken work on both of our client management systems to allow us to capture and report on the information as required. Work in this area is ongoing.
What were the challenges?
We have faced a number of challenges as a team with respect to the implementation of the new framework. The finalised paperwork to support the implementation was only published by Welsh Government on 31 March 2020, for use from 1st April 2020. Further formal guidance regarding the definitions for each of the new 105 measures was only made public by Welsh Government on 27 Nov 2020. Covid-19 has of course restricted some of our usual ways of working, but overall we have been able to progress with the implementation.
Due to the challenges we have faced over the last twelve months, we are continuing to focus on the technical functionality of the new system with respect to reporting on the new measures. We have received confirmation from Welsh Government that there is no requirement to report against the new Performance Management Framework for 2020/21. As such, our focus is to ensure full system readiness for 21/22 reporting.