Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care
On 17 October 2017, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) published its report of the planned inspection it undertook, in July 2017, of Powys County Council’s Children’s Social Services. The inspection identified a significant number of serious concerns and a wide range of shortcomings.
The same day, the former Minister for Social Services and Public Health issued a Warning Notice to Powys County Council under Part 8 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. The Warning Notice set out a series of actions required by the Council to address the issues identified in the CSSIW inspection.
Members were previously advised that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 requires Welsh Ministers to report to the National Assembly for Wales within 90 days of giving the Notice on action taken by the Council in response to the Warning Notice. This written statement provides members with an update on progress.
In compliance with the action set out in the Warning Notice, Powys County Council has:
- Submitted an Improvement Plan on 13 November within the 20 days deadline.
- Established an Improvement Board to oversee the delivery of that plan.
- Appointed an interim Director of Social Services.
- Appointed an interim Head of Children’s Services.
- Made significant progress filling staff vacancies within Children’s Services and have a full complement of operational managers.
The Improvement Plan has been approved by the Council’s Cabinet and Improvement Board. I have seen the Plan and it is my view that the Council has set out its strategic commitment to improving services for the safety and protection of children in Powys. However, further work is required to clearly articulate the Plan’s medium to long term approach towards continuous improvement. Getting this Plan right is vital to delivering real and sustained improvement and to this end my officials are working closely with the Council.
In December, CSSIW undertook a 3 day monitoring activity which consisted of reviewing case files and speaking to frontline operational staff. The findings from CSSIW’s visit showed early signs of improvement, with some evidence of improved practice and many areas where new arrangements, including some aspects of operational practice, had been put in place but were yet to become fully embedded. CSSIW has since written to Powys County Council with its findings highlighting areas in need of further attention and requesting they are incorporated into the updated Improvement Plan.
Whilst I am pleased that improvements are being made, I am determined to maintain close oversight of Powys Children’s Services until we reach a time where Care Inspectorate Wales (formerly known as CSSIW) and Welsh Ministers are satisfied the Council is delivering services to the standard and quality expected. With this in mind, I have decided to issue a refreshed Warning Notice to Powys County Council which sets out updated actions. By taking this approach, I am acknowledging the progress already made but at the same time providing a realistic timeframe for staff to make the major progress we require.
The updated Warning Notice is being laid before the National Assembly for Wales today and as before, I will provide members with an update on action at the end of the statutory 90 day period when I expect to have seen significant improvement.
Since Care Inspectorate Wales’ inspection of children’s services, it has been decided to bring forward Care Inspectorate Wales’ planned inspection of adult services. I am able to confirm the inspection of Powys County Council’s Adults Service will begin this month.
In my joint Written Statement of 21 November with the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services, we noted that Cllr Rosemary Harris, Leader of Powys Council, has requested statutory support under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009. Through Solace Advisory the Welsh Ministers commissioned an initial review by an experienced former Local Authority Chief Executive. We expect to receive the report in January and it will inform the development of a full support package including comprehensive governance arrangements.