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Council must meet legal standards on visits to children at risk of harm, inspectors say

Monmouthshire County Council

CHILDREN on the child protection register in one part of Gwent aren’t being seen as frequently as required, inspectors have found. 

An inspection of Monmouthshire County Council’s children’s services in February found compliance with the requirement of making statutory visits to children identified as at risk of harm varied from just 58 per cent to 67 per cent in the year to date. 

Legislation requires a social worker sees those children alone at least every 10 working days and the child is seen at home at least every four weeks. 

It was also noted there are only two members of staff to review, with support to cover a vacant post, plans for 201 children in care and 115 children on the at risk register. 

“The service has a very high workload and this impacts on the quality of work reviewing officers can do,” said the inspectors who acknowledged all reviews for looked after children are held within statutory timescales. 

The Care Inspectorate Wales has now told the council it must meet the legal standards on visits and its managers should work with staff to understand any failures to record them properly. 

Staff have been using Word documents to complete assessments and care plans, outside of the social care IT system, which has led to inconsistencies with approvals and oversight while technical problems have prevented visits being recorded to its database.  

Inspectors said the council, which is dithering on joining the Welsh Community Care Information System, needs to put in place interim arrangements so managers can be reassured statutory and local standards are being met. 

Increased demand on the service as a whole and budget pressures councils are facing were also recognised in the report.

The council’s practice of holding an internal meeting, without the police, when it needs to consider a section 47 enquiry – that is what action to take if a child is reported at risk of harm –  could cause delays in holding the first child protection conference in response to such a report, inspectors warned.

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They said all-Wales procedures don’t support such meetings in place of a multi-agency meeting and have told the council to work with the Regional Safeguarding Board to specify accepted practice. 

The Care Inspectorate Wales said Monmouthshire County Council has recognised the importance of addressing the concerns and is committed to taking necessary actions to ensure the safety and well-being of children in its care. 

A number of recommendations around standardising practices in child services were made while it was recognised recruitment and retention of social workers is an issue the council has an agency reduction plan and workforce stability has improved in 2024.

Monmouthshire has also completed a restructure of services for children and families who need support and protection and are developing a new practice model, standards, and a quality assurance framework. 

Care Inspectorate Wales will continue working with the council as part of a performance review and a spokesman said: “You can see that Monmouthshire County Council remains dedicated to delivering high-quality children’s services and will continue to work towards enhancing the well-being and safety of children in Monmouthshire.”

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