BRIDGEND Council have announced a new three year plan to improve the way children and families are supported across the county borough this month, after a meeting of council held on September 19.
The plan that will replace the current 3-year strategic improvement plan for children services in Bridgend was approved by cabinet members following consultation, and will now see a number of targets set to improve the services in the area.
It comes after a joint report was published by Care Inspectorate Wales this month reviewing the performance of child protection arrangements in Bridgend County Borough, as well as a separate review conducted by the watchdog that expressed their “serious concerns” regarding Bridgend children’s services in May of 2022.
The latest joint inspection which also included bodies such as Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Estyn, and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, was held between June 12 and June 16, 2023.
Its findings showed that while there are a number of issues, in particular with the recruitment and retention of staff which was said to be “fragile” in the area, there had also been improvements made by the local authority and its partners at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.
Officers say the development of the new three year strategy will now help with their objectives which include, hearing and acting on the voice of children and families, securing a stable, well-supported, motivated and permanent workforce, and maximising the impact of services and interventions.
However, it was noted that while services across Bridgend have seen a number of improvements over the last year, there were still concerns over whether or not these levels of improvement were sustainable.
The report read: “CIW and IPC are clear that the way improvement has been achieved is not sustainable or optimal given the level of statutory intervention in the lives of children and families that is the outcome of current operating models.
“A sustainability plan was needed to sustainably address workforce capacity on a permanent basis and to ensure that there is an integrated set of arrangements for working with children and families with complex needs in which more are supported in highly targeted preventative services.
“Partners need to continue to implement signs of safety as the model of safeguarding practice and the voice of children and families’ needs to be effectively heard and acted upon.”
The report heard by council bosses also highlighted the increased demands that the service currently faces with a total of 8,334 contacts referred to children’s social care in 2022/23 compared to 5,667 in 2021/22 which represents a 47.1% increase.
It was however said that the quantitative performance was “remarkable given the challenges of volume and complexity being faced by the children’s services workforce.”
With the strategy approved, and plans now in place to better retain and recruit staff, as well as building off experiences of neighbouring authorities, Cllr Jane Gebbie, who is Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member Social Services and Health, said it was a welcome move for Bridgend.
She said: “I think this report has been a long time coming to this council chamber and I am delighted to formally move this plan. I appreciate it is a change to our operating model but it is a sustainable plan which we need to ensure the safety of our residents.”