Thurrock Council’s own staff critical of children’s services

By Local Democracy Reporter
Steve Shaw

LESS than third of staff working in Thurrock’s Children’s Services believe the council makes changes for the better, according to a new scrutiny committee report.

The report into safeguarding and management of children’s social care outlines the results of a staff survey which found just 27 percent of children’s services staff agree that changes are made for the better and 29 percent agree that those changes are managed well.

The staff survey also notes that just 42 percent of staff felt they can meet the requirements of their job without excessive working hours. Other areas in need of improvement include confidence to challenge how things are done in the council and staffing levels. Children’s Services currently has a vacancy rate of 13.64 percent.

Thurrock’s social services team recently came under pressure following claims by a whistleblower that a string of failings by the management team contributed to the death of a 23-month toddler in January this year.

However, an inquest held at the beginning of September heard that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and the coroner said two “specialist pathologists” failed to find a cause of death.

The results of the survey were not completely negative and it was noted that that staff generally have a high level of job satisfaction. Just 9 percent said they are unhappy. Results were also good for internal communication and understanding job requirements.

As part of the councils effort to make improvements to children’s services, a new social care model was introduced last week which is aimed at encouraging an integrated approach to working with vulnerable families.

The Signs of Safety model originated in Australia in the 1990s and has since been adopted by several councils across the country, as well as in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. It focuses on how professional workers such as social workers, teachers, doctors and police can work with parents to meet children’s needs.

A central government evaluation from 2017 found that social workers were “overwhelmingly positive” about the new way of working and three quarters of staff using the model said families have benefitted from the change.

Councillor Sue Little, portfolio holder for social care, said: “By providing a joined-up approach to how we work we can further ensure that the best care is given to the children and families who need it.

“The signs of safety model has been interested in many local authorities across the country

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