COUNCILLORS in Neath Port Talbot have heard a performance review of the borough’s social services department for the 2022-23 financial year, at a full council meeting.
In the report given by the director of social services on January 30, members heard how effective the department had been over the course of the year, with the council-run services said to be operating well despite difficult circumstances.
As well as areas of success, it also highlighted a number of challenges that are currently being faced by social services in the borough, with issues currently being seen in the recruitment and retention of staff, as well as an increase in the use of children’s residential care home placements by 40% over the last 12 months.
The report read: “While we have emerged from the other side of a global pandemic, social services continues to deal with the legacy of covid and faces new challenges. A cost-of-living crisis is putting additional pressure on our resources, services, staff and citizens.
“Local volunteers and our team of local area co-ordinators are busier than ever, while our community mental health teams have seen ever-increasing numbers of referrals, with so many people impacted by lockdowns and social isolation. And we have seen a sharp rise in the number of high risk victims of domestic abuse supported.
“Staff, partners and communities continue to show remarkable commitment, compassion, adaptability, and determination to maintain services in these challenging times.”
Speaking at the meeting, the director of social services Andrew Jarrett said: “The report is very positive. It shows, that my assessment is that despite very difficult circumstances, the social services and the social care sector across Neath Port Talbot is operating very well, and in particular is supported very well by the council.”
Jarrett also praised the innovative work that had gone on within the sector over the course of the year, adding that it would need to continue if the council were to meet the challenges of the future.
Notable areas of success in the report showed that during the year 97% of children’s assessments were completed within the target period of 42 days, while the number of children ‘Looked After’ fell to 258, from 268 in the previous year.
The report was noted and approved by members in attendance, alongside a separate report of the council’s corporate plan covering the same period from 2022 to 2023.