Culture change needed with children's social care, council is told

St Helens town hall
St Helens town hall
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Leadership and cultural challenges within children’s social care are being addressed in an action plan, the councillor who oversees children’s services in the borough has said.

Cllr Joe Pearson, St Helens Council cabinet member for developing young people, told cabinet members this week that staff have reported being “demoralised” in the oast, with some teams working in complete silence.

To address some of the challenges faced in the sector, St Helens Council has developed a three-year children’s social care action plan.

Cllr Pearson said one of the key aims of the plan is to establish a “child-centred, ambitious culture” within children’s social care with effective financial and resource management.

“There are leadership and cultural challenges within children‘s social care that need addressing as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“Some staff have been demoralised in the past and there has been a lack of direction and teams working in silence.

“All those issues have been identified by present management and they are currently working on them.

“And hopefully we will see the result of that work in the very near future.”

Cllr Pearson told councillors that actions have been taken to lower the number of looked after children within the borough.

“There are high number of looked after children in St Helens,” he said.

“Outcomes are suboptimal, and these actions are reducing them.”

The report discussed by cabinet said it has been apparent for “many years” that too many children are looked after by the council.

It also says that, compared to other authorities, too many children are subject to a full care order.

“This, again, is overly intrusive to some children and families and does not necessarily deliver the best outcomes for them,” the report says.

“It is also costly in terms of finance and resources for the council, and potentially diverts resources away from other children’s services and services for vulnerable adults.”

Cllr Derek Long, leader of the council, said there is a “national epidemic” of increasing numbers children being looked after across the country.

He highlighted research carried out by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which said England has spent almost half its entire children’s budget on the 73,000 children in the care system.

Cllr Long said: “It’s no wonder we are facing a really great challenges within the council to do with this.

“I understand this group now comprises 50 per cent of all the expenditure on children as well, which is an astonishing understanding of how the national expenditure is being focused on a limited number of individuals.”

Another key aim of the care plan is to improve outcomes and experiences for children on child protection and child in need plans.

Cllr Pearson said action has already been taken in this area and said numbers are beginning to go down “significantly”.

He said the plan has been “refined and finalised” by Professor Sarah O’Brien, the council’s new strategic director of people’s services, and her assistant directors.

Prof O’Brien will personally oversee the plan to ensure its delivery.

Cabinet noted the progress made against the plan and agreed a revised action plan to move forward children’s social care services.
Kenny Lomas , Local Democracy Reporting Service