Conwy Social Services have been going through some big changes. Through our Transformation Programme, we’ve been looking at how we need to reorganise some services to reduce the split between the Children and Families department, and Adults Services. Safeguarding is one of those areas, and we’ve been moving towards joining up Children’s safeguarding with POVA (adults) to improve the coordination of both, under one manager.
As part of the transformation program social services are seeking to enhance the quality of safeguarding performance in respect of all service users. A consultation was undertaken with involved staff as part of a research phase was completed prior to the transformation programme which indicated that a single safeguarding unit would be a positive service development
To deliver on this cross cutting theme and ensure that capacity issues are addressed so as to provide a sustainable service, the strategic planning and operational delivery will come under the responsibility of a single Service Manager –Quality Standards, and there will be a dedicated manager for the area of ‘Safeguarding’
The safeguarding section of the service will include both children and adult safeguarding issues; child protection, the protection of vulnerable adults, and the management of allegations against professionals and volunteers.
Threshold Guidance for POVA has been developed and the POVA policy has been updated to include risk assessment and investigations.
A ‘vulnerable adults’ process has also been introduced and will be further developed under the remit of a Service Manager – Vulnerable People. This process ensure that where adults may be at risk due to their behaviours or characteristics (eg. mental health, learning difficulty), or due to the actions of others towards them, can be raised at a multi-agency panel and a support package be devised to provide support to them.
Social services continue to have active involvement at the police led Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences convened to ensure that social services are actively aware of, and contribute as appropriate, to multi-agency plans to safeguard individuals and their children where they are at risk of further domestic abuse incidents. Positive and proactive engagement with service users and the police means that addressing domestic abuse remains a priority issue for both services.
Missing persons and the associated risk of child sexual exploitation has been an area of safeguarding that has received focussed attention through partnership work with the police. Conwy is developing the ‘Buddies’ scheme to utilise the first-hand knowledge and experiences of young adults who were previously in the Looked After Children system as consultants – to advise professionals on the possible reasons for children going missing from their placements and the ways and means by which those current young people could be effectively approached, engaged with and be supported by professionals to reduce the risk of harm.
What difference has it made?
The vulnerable adults panel has considered the needs of vulnerable people and has been able to provide support plans to people who would otherwise not have been eligible to access social services support due to eligibility criteria that manages the workload demand upon the resource of managed care services.
In respect of domestic abuse a recent case that involved services from across the UK and abroad for in excess of 15 years was successfully managed via criminal conviction of the abuser as a result of close collaborative work between Social Services and NW Police. The domestic abuse survivor addressed the recent regional safeguarding board multi-agency conference that focussed upon raising the profile of Domestic Abuse and its impact upon children. The feedback from the conference evidenced that in providing such a platform for this speaker, and their personal account of the abuse suffered she and her children had suffered provided powerful messages for practitioners across agencies.
The ‘Missing From Home’ working party has been established and has a high level of both multi-agency attendance and commitment. This working group was developed on the back of a joint police / social services intelligence led initiative which identified links between a number of female children / young people going missing and associated linked addresses in the local community. As a result of this initiative there were a number of arrests made and evidence that robust early intervention prevented an escalation of risks posed to this cohort of children by older adult males.
Pre Proceedings Protocol
The Family Justice Review (FJR) states that care proceedings take far too long, averaging fifty two weeks in England & Wales. The FJR recommends that this timescale be reduced to twenty six weeks, and that the system should become more focussed on the timetable for the child. Given this recommendation, His Honour Judge Gareth Jones, Designated Family Judge for North Wales, has decided that a regional pre-court protocol should be developed for social workers, outlining the focus of work to be completed prior to and/or in conjunction with the PLO being initiated in ‘slow burn’/multi issue cases where, for example, alcohol/substance misuse, neglect, emotional abuse, or parental learning disabilities, are key factors
An initial meeting was held between the Service Manager for Fieldwork, Principal Practitioners for the Assessment and Support Team and Safeguarding and Legal Team and Legal services in March 2013. An action plan was developed to ensure the department was able to meet the requirements of the Family Justice Review.
Over the next six months, the group met every six weeks to monitor the implementation of the action plan.
The following practice areas were developed:
- Pre-Proceedings Protocol with reference to the Ward Research/ Pre Proceedings checklist
- Guidance for social workers around the completion of chronologies/ genograms and life story work
- Protocols developed with Adults services
- Regular meetings with CAFCASS
In October 2013 the department arranged for two 2-day workshops for all staff to attend including representatives from Adults services and health. The workshop covered the following areas:
- Overview of the Family Justice Review
- Ward & Research
- Roles and Responsibilities under the Pre Proceedings Protocol
- Life story work
- Child Development
- Planning for assessments
The initial feedback we have from both the judiciary and CAFCASS indicates that the quality of court work presented by Conwy Staff is in accordance with the requirements of the Family Justice Review. We will also continue to monitor the effectiveness of pre-proceedings work.
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