A presentation was given to Committee on the response to Covid by the Children’s Social Care service.
It was reported that all services are continuing to be offered and that no service was stood down throughout any of the lockdowns. Family time and visits have continued and during the latest lockdown virtual visits were only held by exception, for example if there were safety concerns.
There has continued to be low numbers of sickness absence and the service is now starting to see the benefits of more flexible working.
There has continued to be an increase in overall demand with numbers reaching a peak in July 2020 of 450 children and young people in the system. There are currently 443 children in the LAC system, this is still higher than would usually be expected and the pandemic is a factor in that. It was reported that at its peak there were 287 children subject to a Child Protection Plan, this figure currently stands at 231. There are still over 100 more children and young people in statutory services and there are 1700 caseloads.
It was noted that staff have been resilient throughout the pandemic, there has been low numbers of sickness absence and a low number of agency workers in comparison to neighbouring authorities. Vaccinations have been rolled out to all frontline staff.
It was reported that there has been an increase in Ofsted activity in Gateshead, which has put a lot of demand on the service. It was noted that there is awareness of staff pressures and the impact of increased LAC numbers and the service has been creative in terms of placements, trying to ensure placements are kept within the borough where appropriate.
It was questioned as to how many cases there are per Social Worker. It was noted that on average there are 19 children per Social Worker, however there is no national guidance with regards to this and in Gateshead it is aimed to keep case loads between 16 and 20. There are lower case loads for those working with complex edge of care cases and the SWIS team. Staff are on a rota to attend the Civic Centre and any staff requiring closer communication will be facilitated.
It was questioned whether there has been an increase in the number of domestic violence cases during the pandemic. It was acknowledged that there is a correlation between domestic violence and the increase in LAC numbers.
It was reported that there has been a local advert on TV as part of a Foster Carer recruitment drive, 10 assessments are ongoing as a result of this. It was noted that some Foster Carers go on to become permanent Foster Carers or ‘staying put’ Foster Carers which means less availability for additional placements.
More newborns and unborn babies are coming through referrals so work is ongoing to look at intervention packages. There has also been more children needing mental health interventions.
It was noted that all services for Care Leavers have continued with Personal Advisors face to face visits and financial packages remaining the same. Recent surveys showed that Care Leavers felt supported and Chris Hulme continues to work closely with them on a number of activites.
RESOLVED - That the information presented be noted.