The percentage of initial case conferences held within 15 days of strategy discussion/referral had declined during 2013/ 2014. This particular target is an important indicator of Conwy’s ability to swiftly address safeguarding concerns, and prevent delay and potentially increased risk to the welfare of the child. There was a decrease since 2012/13 (96.1% to 78.3%), which prompted us to seek an urgent explanation and take positive, swift action.
The drop in the average figure was mainly due to the 3rd quarter, where only 18 of the 28 children had their conferences within timescales. The 10 children who did not were from two large sibling groups (a group of 6, and a group of 4). These 2 conferences were late because one had to be rescheduled due to parents not being able to attend the initial date, the other was booked in error just outside the timescale, and took place the following week.
There were in fact only 8 conferences that were out of timescale in the year, all of which took place in the following working week, with 19 working days being the longest time recorded. These 8 conferences were in relation to 26 children, which has made the performance appear significantly lower.
The final outturn was 78.3% (94 out of a total of 120 children who were deemed to have had their initial conference out of the 15 working day timescales). As previously mentioned this was 26 children but only in fact 8 Child Protection conferences that were out of timescale. (If the PI was counting conferences the outturn would have been 86.7% – 52 out of a total of 60 initial conferences in the year).
An action plan was created by managers to ensure an improvement in timeliness:
- Conferences not to be postponed when parents say they cannot attend.
- Conferences to be booked according to official Strategy Discussion notes.
- Date to be 15 working days from initial strategy discussion.
- Child Protection coordinator to attend all social work meetings to reinforce the process and include content in annual training programme.
- Explore developing PARIS IT system to “flag” due dates automatically.
What difference has it made?
This issue has been formally reported to Conwy’s Customer Scrutiny Committee on 25/9/14, following consultation with the portfolio Cabinet Member for Childrens & Families Safeguarding portfolio, who supported the actions being taken.
The final quarter of the year showed that the action plan was having an impact, with an 11% improvement on the previous year-end performance. Whilst still below our target figure and marginally below the tolerance level of 90%, work is continuing to secure the position.
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