No “quick fixes” for children and young people’s services

There will be no “quick fixes” for East Riding children and young people’s services as the council works to address issues which led to an inadequate Ofsted rating.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 11:18 am
County Hall at Beverley.

Officers told councillors on the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee that they were not “complacent” about the changes required after inspectors demanded urgent improvements.

Eoin Rush, East Riding Council director of children’s, families and schools, told the committee the previous “one stop shop” EHaSH system was left “creaking” under thousands of referrals.

The officer said the system had since been stripped back and redesigned from the ground up. But he added that more pressure was expected as children return to the county’s schools after months away during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The hearing came as part on an ongoing review into services following Ofsted’s December 2019 inspection.

Ofsted found weaknesses included insufficient resources, poor quality referrals, consent not being demonstrated properly, lack of management oversight and delays in responding to those at risk.

Councillors heard that although data appeared to show East Riding services functioning at a similar level to comparable local authorities, EHaSH was failing to reach children outside the system.

Mr Rush said the outcome of the Ofsted inspection had been “deeply disappointing”.

But he added simply mending the “holes in the road” would not shore up the system in the long term.

The officer said: “What appear to be straight forward decisions on this are in reality more complex.

“In our organisation we took and take the view that if people are concerned about children they should tell us.

“EHaSH was set up as a one stop shop where we could have an understanding of what children needed in one place.

“But that expansive offer began to cause problems and trying to sift through the information became really challenging.

“Inspectors did not find that children were unsafe. But there were creeping and growing problems which taken together led to the Ofsted rating.”

Council Improvement Partner Dot Evans said staff had been “overwhelmed” by the number of referrals.

A council report showed seven staff members on EHaSH’s ‘front door’, its first point of contact, had dealt with 15,000 contacts when the Ofsted inspection took place.

The report found 8,200 of those, or 55%, either did not require an EHaSH response or were referred elsewhere.

A total of 3,000 contacts out of the 6,800 which required an EHaSH response were taken on by social workers.

Of those taken on, 28% of referrals came from schools and other education institutions, 21 per cent came from the police and 13% came from individuals.

Ms Evans said: “Those numbers were more than we expected. That impacted on the availability of the team which was quite simply overwhelmed. Ofsted found there was a lack of management grip on referrals coming in through the front door.”

Penny Donno, the council’s current lead for children and young people’s support and safeguarding, said coronavirus had not stopped officers from moving forward with improvements.

Ms Donno said the council continued to suffer from a shortage of qualified social workers, a trend taking place nationally.

Jo Gomerson, head of the council’s Safeguarding and Partnership Hub which has replaced EHaSH, said staff would need to provide the right responses for the right people going forward.

Ms Gomerson said: “We have a police officer and health nurses in the Hub, meaning we have immediate contact with two key agencies.

“It’s critical that staff feel supported and heard, we need to be open and honest.

“It’s also important that when people pick up the phone they feel they’re getting a response.

“Our system now lets those ringing with an urgent matter to jump the call queue.”