'You said, we did' annual report

Introduction

This is a summary of actions taken by Children’s Services in the past 12 months. These were in response to the views of children and families gathered in 2020.

You said

People who use our services took part in a survey to find out what they thought of the service. They were:

  • 1210 parents and carers
  • 370 children and young people

1, 869 also completed a feedback widget embedded in an email to provide an instant comment.

94% service users felt treated with respect.

89% felt we took into account their needs, feelings and wishes.

91% felt generally happy with the service provided. 

78% felt their life had improved (fostering did not ask this).

We did

This report sets out the actions we took in response to the views of people who use our services. It also shows how we plan to improve the way we gather their views.


Admissions

You said

Some parents noticed that the Synergy Parent Portal:

  • had a poor search function
  • sometimes didn’t work or didn’t work on some devices
  • had a lack of clarity and inability to attach documents.

We did

We have updated the website and it is now clearer and easier to navigate. It also complies with the accessibility regulations. Parents and carers can now access area maps online. They can identify the school serving their home address via our website.

An upgrade of Citrix has improved performance and reduced downtime. The service is looking to upgrade the parent portal. This will be an integrated web-based version. This should improve performance and may allow the attachment of documents, where appropriate. It will also follow the accessibility regulations.

We have trained staff on all the changes. They have undertaken refresher training on:

  • Information Governance
  • customer care standards

All staff receive the appropriate level of supervision. They can pass on queries and receive support from line managers where needed.

During busy periods it may be that:

  • we send automated or brief email responses
  • complicated queries can take longer

All staff are aware of the standards expected.


Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability (ISEND)

ISEND is the name for a group of services which support:

  • children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and  
  • their families. 

ISEND services support equality of access to education in East Sussex.

ISEND: Communication, Learning, Autism Support (CLASS)

You said

There was a low response rate to surveys for this service.

Some parents wanted more communication on how the support in school is proceeding.

We did

CLASS were one of ISEND services to trial a new online evaluation platform. This has resulted in a large increase in parental response to service evaluations. In 2020, CLASS received 24 evaluations from parents. In 2021, this has increased to 75. This represents more than a 300% increase in response rates from parents.

A key service target on the 2021/2022 service improvement plan (SIP) is as follows:

“To involve parents & carers in the planning, communication, and review of CLASS support.”

We reinforced to staff the importance of regular and timely communication with parents. We did this in the following ways:

  • Monthly reporting to Team Leaders on parent/carer evaluation data
  • Monthly reporting to Deputy Service Managers on parent/carer evaluation data
  • Use of monthly report to feed into supervisions, team meetings etc
  • Creation of an annual report on parental involvement
  • Supporting the collection of parent voice information with necessary resources and operational systems

In 2021,16.4% more parents than in 2020 reported that we had 'definitely' kept them informed of the support.

ISEND: English as Additional Language Service (EALS)

You said

A pupil reported wanting more homework.

Many pupils also gave feedback on their experience of home learning. Most found it challenging and said they were better able to access it with EALS’ support.

We did

We are reviewing our homework/home learning policy and approach.

We have implemented a new system of “postcards home”. This has helped us improve our communication around targets. This is as well as steps we are already taking. As part of this, we discuss targets with pupils, included in the postcards.

ISEND: Educational Psychology Service

You said

One parent/carer did not understand the EP’s report.

Some parents felt the surveys were being completed too soon. They felt a longer time was necessary to see the impact of the EP’s recommendations.

We did

The EPS has developed a system to quality assure their reports. There is an emphasis on accessibility with checklist items being:

  • consideration of range of audiences for the report
  • use of professional yet appropriate language to ensure it is accessible to all (eg. for non-psychologists)

Educational Psychologists discuss and adapt their reports where necessary following parent carer feedback. We also make it clear when we have coproduced outcomes with parent carers.

We have established a new electronic system of evaluation. This ensures feedback about EP involvement is meaningful, whenever completed. We are using the new version of the EPS evaluation form across the service. We have deleted previous versions.

ISEND: Education Support, Behaviour and Attendance Service (ESBAS)

You said

Some parents expressed loss of support or the support ending.

Some parents didn’t always understand the terminology in letters and communication.

Some children said they didn’t always feel involved in family meetings.

We did

ESBAS have reviewed their closing process to ensure exit plans:

  • are considered from the offset
  • incorporate increased joint working with school staff
  • incorporate clarity to all service users

The closing reports are being reviewed but we have amended the support plans. These support plans:

  • show clear expectations on an exit plan
  • communicate expectations before any intervention starts

ESBAS have reviewed their formal communication process. This ensures they frame letters in a supportive yet informative way. They have reframed and streamlined the communication with clients. They have restructured the process around support to reflect ongoing progress and support.

ESBAS seek the views of the child before meetings where appropriate. They look to include the views in meetings when appropriate. Pupil voice is an integral part of our work. We encourage all secondary school age pupils to take part where appropriate. Where pupils receive regular 1:1 support from ESBAS, we:

  • give opportunities to gain further understanding of pupils' voice
  • communicate pupils' voice with stakeholders as part of the review process

ISEND: Sensory Needs Service (SNS)

You said

This service received too few responses to draw out any areas for improvement.

We did

In 2021 the service received 88 completed evaluation forms. We received 19 completed forms in 2020. This represents a huge increase (363%). We have also reviewed the existing evaluation forms. We have made them more service specific.

ISEND: Interim Provision Service (IPS)

You said

The evaluation forms are not service specific. They do not gather information that is useful to drive service improvement.

The impact of the pandemic has affected the number of evaluations completed in 2020. Remote teaching and education review meetings took place rather than face to face.

One student shared that they would like to be in a school setting in relation to their education.

One student felt they were not making progress.

We did

IPS have reviewed the evaluation forms to make them more service specific. We now have four specific questions to ask parent and pupils. These are about their experiences of engaging with IPS interim education. This will help us gain more service specific feedback. We have also used symbols and visuals, to make them more user friendly. We continue to review service user feedback including in team meetings.

IPS worked remotely during the pandemic, including parts of 2021.This affected the number of evaluations received. Teachers were unable to support completion of them at review meetings. They were also unable to leave them with families to collect during the next visit. IPS are now moving to the ISEND online platform for evaluations. We are confident this will result in an increase in response rates.

IPS helps prepare students for their next placement. As a service, we continue to ensure students understand this. (IPS do not have a peer cohort available for paired or group work but deliver teaching in a 1:1 format). With an agreed placement, IPS teachers prepare and support transitions into a school. IPS collaborates with the children and young people, parents, and the school. They best support this process using bespoke transition plans.

In relation to progress, IPS continue to develop a baseline assessment and tracking. This ensures students and their parents/carers can see evidence of their progress. They can see it over time from their starting point. Baseline assessment isn't appropriate for some children and young people. In these cases, this year we have implemented an engagement tracker. We share both progress assessments at reviews with parents every six weeks. Parents and children and young people can see their progress from the starting point. We send this out as an appendix together with the child and young person's report. We hold review meetings. IPS ask and record:

  • how the children and young person feels about their progress
  • the views of their parents

ISEND: Teaching and Learning Provision (TLP)

You said

Some parents reported they wanted:

  • greater input from CAMHS
  • better joint working between TLP and CAMHS
  • continued support for the pupil after successful reintegration back into school

There was little pupil feedback, so it was difficult to identify areas of improvement.

We did

Two meetings have taken place with CAMHS managers. There is now an onward co-produced plan in place to:

  • create a service level agreement between CAMHS/TLP
  • complete a Date Protection Impact Assessment. This will share data about children access out of county hospitals

We have created a joint plan so that children in schools receive onward support after a period of TLP. These children have Mental Health Emotional Wellbeing teams.

The plan includes training Mental Health Emotional Wellbeing teams to ensure:

  • knowledge levels around Elective Home Educated pupils are better understood
  • the increased need if they return to school

Training for staff:

  • to ensure student evaluations include a greater level of feedback comments is ongoing
  • will continue as we move to the ISEND online evaluation platform

We have also reviewed the evaluations. There are more service specific questions. These are helping us identify more specific areas of improvement from pupil feedback.

ISEND: Early Years Service (EYS)

You said

Response rates for EYS service evaluations were low. Covid-19 restrictions have made it difficult to collect evaluations from parents.

Some parents felt they didn’t always get the information they needed.

We did

Following a trial period with CLASS, EYS piloted a new online evaluation platform. In 2020, EYS received 55 evaluations from parents. In 2021, this decreased to 45. This represents an approximate 22% decrease in response rates from parents*.

*Mitigating Factor - due to the Covid-19 pandemic, cases remain open to EYS for longer periods of time. This means fewer cases close, and we send fewer evaluations out to parents.

We have reinforced to staff the importance of sharing information with parents. This should be on a timely basis. The 2021/2022 service improvement plan (SIP) has a key service target:

"Identify more opportunities to develop SEN support within settings and schools. These should have a specific focus on parent/carer voice."


We further reinforced to staff the importance of regular communication with parents. We did this by:

  • monthly reporting to Team Leaders on parent/carer evaluation data
  • use of monthly report to feed into supervisions, team meetings

Safeguarding Unit

You said

Some parents noted they would have preferred face to face contact.

We did

After restrictions eased in September, we conduct Conferences through a range of settings. These include face to face where:

  • it is an Initial Conference
  • the family requests it
  • it is considered safer and in the best interests of the discussion

Locality Social Work and Family Assessment

We gave parents who receive support from the service a survey to complete. We held three focus groups with children and young people over autumn half term. They were for the following ages:

  • age 8-11
  • age 11-13
  • age 13-16

You said

Not all parents/carers felt we meet their needs related to their race, ethnicity or culture.

Parents/carers reported to be struggling to manage their money.

Some parents/carers were struggling to address children’s development and health needs.

Some people felt social workers need to be equipped to support young people’s mental health.

Some parents/carers felt they couldn’t support young people in their education.

Following the use of Technology during the pandemic, we are keen to make better use of virtual platforms to support face-face-contacts.

We did

There has been manager and practitioner training around issues related to diversity.

Equality and Diversity social work practitioners have lead workshops and team sessions.

Teaching Partnership research with families of diverse backgrounds is taking place in 2022.

To support families in addressing poverty, a rolling programme of troubled families keyworkers:

  • share information
  • support social workers on how to navigate the benefit system

We encourage social workers to attend child development training that is available.

 The principal social worker is updating the ‘Neglect Toolkit' for practitioners to use.

In April 2021 we launched an E-learning package and training on suicide prevention.

We promoted a rolling programme of self-harming training. Once completed, we make all practitioners aware of Sussex Partnership Self Harming Protocol.

Social work practitioners now lead their teams on mental health and substance misuse.

We have promoted to staff the ‘Ana Freud’ material on supporting children’s return to school.

We have encouraged social workers to attend a twilight training involving education.

We have promoted School’s ‘mental health support team’ provision to social workers.

The service is implementing the “Being Digital Strategy”. This includes the development of training on using technology. It also includes strengthening guidance on virtual home visiting.


Children’s Disability Service

You said

Some parents felt they didn’t have enough contact throughout the pandemic.

 Some parents said they wanted more information on activities in the community.

 A few parents wanted more consistency in social workers.

We did

Social workers have returned to usual face to face visiting, whilst ensuring COVID safe measures are in place. They continue to undertake careful risk assessments. They also weigh up individual specific risks and vulnerabilities of children and families. They work with parents, carers, and partner agencies to ensure sound decision making. On exceptional occasions it is necessary to undertake virtual home visits.

The new East Sussex Local Offer website launched in January 2022. This new website was a collaborative effort throughout 2021. We called on help and guidance from, amongst others:

  • parents and carers
  • adult social care
  • East Sussex Parent Carer Forum (ESPCF)
  • Amaze
  • SEND practitioners

Through coproduction, we have built a website that aims to be:

  • comprehensive
  • clear
  • modern
  • and inclusive

This includes the addition of audio readers for all text on the website.

As well as the launch of the new website, the Local Offer has joined the East Sussex 1Space directory. This directory aims to highlight all opportunities that are available for:

  • Children and Young People with SEND
  • and their families throughout East Sussex.

This includes

  • activities and events
  • advice and guidance
  • and extra support for parents and carers, throughout the county and online

The Practice Manager of the Children’s Disability Duty Team undertook an audit of a total of 59 children. open to The Children’s Disability Service Review system. This was to find out if children and families within the CDS Service Review System:

  • could access consistency in social workers
  • could not access consistency and establish what the cause was

 Findings were:

27% of cases were reviewed by the same worker

50% of cases have had the same worker for 2 out of 3 reviews

23% of cases have had the last three reviews completed by different workers

The main reasons for not providing the same worker for service reviews were due to:

  • worker no longer working for the service
  • worker on maternity leave
  • case transferred to a different team
  • allocated to a student/ASYE as part of their learning

We acknowledge a family should have the same worker to complete reviews to:

  • try and ensure consistency
  • not need to repeat their family situation

Due to the reasons outlined above it is not always possible to provide the same worker. In this case, the new worker will ensure they know as much about the family as possible. They will do this before completing the review.


Fostering

The Fostering Service undertake an annual monitoring survey. It collects data at assessment and panel for new Foster Carers.

Annual Monitoring

You said

Some foster carers talked about training and that they missed it or felt it should prepare you more.

Some foster carers mentioned wanting more contact from the Social Worker.

Some foster carers commented on finances.

Some said they hadn’t received enough information.

We did

The fostering service worked hard not the compromise its training commitment. Despite the challenge of Covid, virtual training to foster carers continued. Live training that was unable to take place was in the most part converted to a virtual format. Supervising Social Workers felt supported in encouraging foster carers to access training. Foster Carers Supervisions raised training need and attendance support.

The service also wished to enhance Social Workers' understanding of provider services. They plan to work in the future with the Social Worker education team. They also plan to offer shadowing opportunities for example with the Duty team. Covid has disrupted some of these plans.

Over the last year, we have worked with:

  • the LAC management group
  • Independent Reviewing Officers

to encourage Children's Social Workers to include foster carers in care plan objectives.

The service has revised the advice slips to carers. Foster carers can get clarification on finances via their Supervising Social Worker. We have reminded them about this.

We have worked with the:

  • LAC
  • locality services

to reinforce the need to recognise foster carers as an essential part of the team around the child. This will afford them the same information available to other professionals. There is an audit planned for January 2022. This will assess participation and inclusion in the team around the child.

Assessment

You said

One carer said that training should follow shortly after assessment.

We did

There was a review of the administrative processes in respect of this. We now inform the training administration more promptly about newly registered foster carers.

Panel

You said

A couple of carers said the building was hard to find.

A couple of parents commented on the waiting time being too long.

We did

This relates to a previous venue which is no longer used for fostering panel meetings.

Panel have introduced a new system. Questions to carers are:

  • pre-selected by the chair
  • based on summary reports from panel members

This has made the process more expedient and efficient.


Youth Offending Team

You said

Parents/Carers and children highlighted that we don't always take into account:

  • race
  • culture
  • heritage
  • religion

Children stated that they need support to understand their plans.

Children emphasised the desire to feel further involved in decisions made about them.

Children felt that there are no fun things to do where they live.

Parents and Carers have asked for more information on the type of support:

  • offered at East Sussex County Council
  • offered with external partners

Parent-Carers need further support with feeling safe

Parent-Carers highlighted that their children often did not treat them with respect

We did

We have completed a review on ethnic disproportionality in the YOT. This has highlighted an over representation of:

  • Black
  • Black British and
  • mixed heritage children

among those at risk or experiencing exploitation as well as those who reoffend or breach. Although numbers in this cohort are low, we have developed an action plan to address this. This will include engagement with parents and carers and children.

As part of the Hastings Pathfinder project, we have engaged a group of young men from the Hastings area. This includes young men who are black or mixed heritage.

YOT has nominated an Equality lead. They are supporting staff to widen knowledge of cultural issues. We are planning a whole team event for spring 2022.

We have encouraged YOT staff to complete the following training:

  • Equality and Diversity eLearning
  • Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion/Safeguarding and Child Protection

Supporting children to understand their plans is an area of improvement for our team. We are working on:

  • focusing Intervention plans on the specific needs and strengths of the child
  • ensuring children have a say in how we develop plans

We are trialling various plan formats and seeking feedback from children.

We have produced an 'Introduction to the YOT' leaflet. This gives:

  • a child centred explanation
  • an overview of what children can expect from their contact with YOT

We give this to children and their parent/carer at the start of their Order or Disposal.

We are developing a YOT engagement strategy to help embed a culture of participation. This will give all children a voice to influence decisions that affect them. We will consult with children, as well as their parents, as part of the development of this strategy.

The YOT and Sussex University are currently researching assessment practices in East Sussex. As part of this we have consulted with children and parents/carers. Their views will help shape conclusions and recommendations.

We encourage all children to provide feedback through an exit questionnaire. This supports improvements and developments in services.

We have completed a needs analysis to inform an East Sussex YOT Strategy for Girls and Young Women. We will be working with Sussex University to develop the strategy. This will ensure the active involvement of Girls and Young Women.

We have created a new Education Co-Ordinator post. This ensures that children at risk of offending and exploitation:

  • receive the protective factor of attendance in full-time education
  • have appropriate and ambitious onward pathways

We have introduced education review meetings. These meetings support:

  • better attendance
  • engagement with education

among children vulnerable to exploitation.

We also set up YOT Education Escalation Panels to ensure a multi-agency approach. If there is not an appropriate offer, these reduce delay in an alternative offer to children.

We developed a 'Session' activity programme in Hastings. We delivered it to children vulnerable to exploitation and their peer group.

We continue to work with:

  • our police
  • Early Help colleagues

to deliver contextual responses in several places around East Sussex. This includes the provision of detached youth workers and community-based activities.

A small activity fund is available for children who:

  • want to join a positive activity
  • need financial support

YOT have been successful in supporting children, for example:

  • joining football clubs
  • joining kick boxing
  • attending the gym

The YOT Mental health lead is building a collection of useful resources. These are to share with parent and carers and consist of:

  • literature
  • Apps
  • websites

We will develop this to include other areas of service provision. These will include exploitation and substance misuse.

We are improving our exit planning processes. Children and parents/carers will feel supported when their YOT engagement ends.

The Collaboration Against Child Exploitation brings together parents/carers. Their children are at risk of exploitation. It provides support through a mix of:

  • practitioner led sessions
  • a parent led support network

The initial group feedback from parents and carers is:

  • the practitioner led sessions have been a success
  • they have welcomed sharing their experiences and the support from other parents

The YOT is currently reviewing its child to parent abuse offer. This is so we can offer consistent and robust interventions where appropriate.


Early Help

You said

There could be an improvement in reporting of ethnicity across the service.

Some parents report to not wanting or being ready for the service to finish.

There are few male respondents.

We need to achieve more balanced responses across the areas.

The service doesn't currently have a way to capture service user feedback for youth work. But it does hold evaluations of sessions and collect feedback.

We did

We have been reporting to the management team on the proportion of cases with:

  • ethnicity recorded
  • other protected characteristics recorded

The number of unknown ethnicities on our open caseload has reduced to 16% in November 2021. This is from 25% unknown in December 2020. This process is continuing. There will always be a proportion of the current cases where:

  • we are still gathering information about the family members
  • we have recently started to work with the family

There will of course be a smaller group where:

  • we need to address priority issues before gathering information such as ethnicity

We implemented a new electronic survey in the year to get demographic information. This survey increased provision of this information. This was in response to our limited ability to make face-to-face home visits due to the pandemic.

We reviewed the closure process and the receipt of service user feedback in the autumn. We made some recommendations including:

  • sharing good practice across the teams
  • a discussion of case closures within the regular team meetings
  • identifying good practice and possible improvements
  • clarifying the closure process with some flow charts to prompt the key workers

Work to get feedback from a wide cross-section continued. The outcomes of this as at end of November 2021 for Youth Work Feedback were:

  • 297 responders
  • 104 (35%) are from males

Adult Keywork Feedback:

  • 760 responders
  • 129 (17%) are from males

Young People Keywork Feedback:

  • 203 responders
  • 73 (36%) are from males

We have compared the whole year 2021 data in the last week. It shows these teams remaining in the top three:

  • Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford
  • Hastings and St Leonards

for recording the most feedback alongside Short Term Keywork. In fact, the % coverage of feedback has increased across the board for all teams. This demonstrates improvement in this area for this reporting period.

The youth work case management system now aligns with the 0-19 keywork service. We ask feedback questions at the end of:

  • one-off groupwork interventions
  • each term for ongoing and/or drop-in interventions.

It can be more challenging to engage young people in providing feedback. This is particularly when asking questions to identify the impact of interventions. Yet in this first year of operating this survey for youth groups we have had nearly 300 responses. These are from young people in the period from February to November 2021. This is out of 460 attendees, so almost 65% success in getting feedback. There has been a reduction in the number of Youth Groups run due to the pandemic. Yet, the number of attendees and responses cover a wide range of groups:

  • Teen groups
  • Girl groups
  • LGBT groups
  • People on the edge of care

There was also a good level of responses from the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programmes. These took place in the summer holidays.


Youth Cabinet

You said

Young people wanted to meet more throughout the pandemic.

Young people wanted to see what they had achieved throughout term as a Youth Cabinet member.

We did

We have held Youth Cabinet meetings weekly during the pandemic.

We have produced a newsletter showing what the Youth Cabinet has achieved. We circulate this four times a year.




Healthy Activity and Food (HAF) Programme

You said

Some parents and carers wanted activities in more locations.

Some parents and carers found it difficult to find out about the programme.

Some parents and carers wanted longer sessions because they work.

Some parents and carers later sessions might attract older young people.

Some parents/carers wanted HAF to run in every school holiday.

We did

Mapping of bids is now completed before the grant assessment panel. At the panel we now allocate funding making sure we spread activities across the county.

We began social media promotion and promotion through the website. We promote the programme to schools through networking events. Schools can then spread the word to eligible families. We are developing a new website to promote the programme.

We have given providers more flexibility to plan the timings of the activity. For example, they can offer fewer days but longer hours.

We used alternative funding to offer similar holiday activities in:

We used alternative funding to offer similar holiday activities in:

  • February and
  • May 2022 half term holidays.