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'You said, we did' annual report 2024

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.


Early Help and Social Care

Children's Social Care

The Locality Social Work & Children’s Disability Service teams build relationships with families to reduce risks and support change over time.

This is done through:

  • Assessments
  • Planning
  • intervention and review,
  • Complex care planning resulting in multi-agency integrated interventions and support.
  • Making the right decision at the right time when planning for children to be placed in alternative care.

All of the work in Social Care is underpinned by a good understanding of attachment, trauma and use of motivational interviewing.

Locality Social Work

You Said:

  • Children and young people spoke positively about their social worker.
  • Young people were able to say what their social worker did to help.
  • Young people highlighted common features as ‘warmth’, ‘kindness’, ‘directness’ and ‘honesty’.
  • Social workers understood what was going on for the young people. Young people felt social workers were trying to do something about their situation at home.
  • Many young people shared their experience of having several social workers. Young people reported having to repeat their story. several young people found this traumatic.
  • Young people would prefer to have one key contact. They'd prefer this to be with the person they had the best relationship with. This might not always be their social worker.
  • Many young people felt that schools weren’t responding effectively to bullying. Young people wished their social worker could do more to advocate on their behalf.
  • Some visits felt rushed.
  • Young people had strong views on the importance of having discussions about identity. Young people would like professionals to have these discussions from an informed place.

 

We Did:

Reducing workload for social workers

  • Locality have continued to focus on reducing workload this year. 26 newly qualified social workers started in September. 16 experienced external social workers have been recruited since April 2023.
  • Workload for social workers is reducing gradually. The average caseload now at 18 across the service. This means that social workers have more time with young people. Visits feel less rushed and there is more capacity to build on the things young people value.

Better communication

  • Locality teams are in the first phase of recording plans / assessments in a new way. Teams are writing directly to the child. The next phase should be completed by 2024.
  • To build on the positive feedback from young people, there has been a re-focus on the effective use of chronology with social workers. Chronologies are a vital tool for social workers working with children and families. They are crucial to:
    • Capturing significant events in the child and family’s life
    • Considering the child’s felt and lived experience
    • Understanding the source of actual / potential harm impacting on children and young people
    • Identifying protective factors and to decide next steps for interventions

Locality produced and shared guidance on Chronology. teams have audited the quality of information gathered. This has supported social workers to understand what’s going on for young people, and to try and support positive changes at home.

Telling your story once

  • Locality have focused on minimising trauma experienced by children and young people when asked to repeat their story.
  • Young people’s feedback has been included within trauma informed training and development. This training has been delivered across social care.

Training and Development / Understanding and raising awareness

  • Locality have been working with the Behavioural and Attendance Service to:
    • create and share a pool of resources around bullying
    • deliver workshops and advice to parents and carers
    • hold a social work masterclass with virtual school on cyberbullying.
  • Equality and Diversity Training has been delivered to the senior social workers.
  • The equality and diversity practitioner forum supports discussions about identity with young people.
  • CAMHS are now delivering workshops on mental health for children. Locality are currently commissioning a workshop responding to children with eating disorders.
  • Locality have re-launched self-harming resources and mental health material. These resources are available for all social workers on the internal web page.

Strengthening ‘lead practitioner’

  • Locality and Connected Families Intensive Practitioners (formally family safeguarding) are currently working through how the concept of a lead professional works.

Children's Disability Service

You Said:

  • Social workers were understanding about young people’s learning needs and experiences.
  • Families shared the positive impact of social workers. This was especially in helping children communicate their needs and wishes.
  • Some families raised concerns over case load pressures for staff.
  • Some families asked for improvements in communication.
    • before and after referrals, and
    • information to support the family while waiting for assessment.
  • Some parents felt that the 'Child in Need' assessment was not explained appropriately. if the initial assessment was challenged by the local authority
  • Some families felt that all disabled children should have a social worker. Families recognise the benefit of having a social worker in preventing negative outcomes.
  • Some families highlighted the need for consistency when working with their social worker. This could include regular meetings to support better planning and understanding.
  • Families felt like giving service user feedback is not a worthwhile exercise. Reasons include feeling that issues they raised were not taken into account. Some families felt they did not understand why equality monitoring was relevant to assessment.

We Did:

Keeping parents and carers informed:

  • Duty team endeavour to keep families informed regularly. during the referral processes.
  • Conducted a parent carer focus group to understand. how to explain the child in need assessment to parents and carers

Additional equality training

  • Equality monitoring figures have increased to 98% for 2023-2024

Early Help

The Early Help Service 0-19 helps support families from pregnancy until the age of 19. The service is made up of East Sussex County Council, NHS professionals and other partners. The service offers a wide range of support:

  • at home
  • from a Family Hub, or
  • from a Youth Centre

Keywork Service 0-19 Years

You Said:

  • Young people are grateful for items they'd received when working with the service (new uniform, internet, new beds etc)
  • Young people enjoyed spending time doing activities (cooking, playing games)
  • Some comments from young people expressed concern about the support ending. Concerns were either for themselves or parent / carer, and how this might affect them.
  • Adults who gave feedback noted that they felt ‘listened to’. Adults highlighted that working with Early Help had ‘made a difference’
  • One respondent felt that the work was not long enough to achieve what was needed
  • Some adults reported a feeling of ‘wishing we could do more’, when recording negative wellbeing measures.

We Did:

Increasing the response rate for feedback for adults and young people

  • The team implemented a process to gather feedback via text in June 2023. Practice Managers have reported that their teams prefer to gather feedback face to face rather than use text /email.
  • Practitioners feel the current feedback form is not user friendly for children under 14. This is currently under review in the hope to increase responses from that cohort.
  • Early Help continue to monitor the level of feedback received.

Improving communication about the end of support

  • Keyworkers have conversations with families about what to expect in their first meeting. These conversations explain the timeline of the intervention and discuss expectations of support. These conversations have been incorporated into the service guidelines.
  • Young People are being reminded of the timeframe of their support while the work is taking place.

Monitoring for improvement for Equality data

  • A percentage of 'unknown' Equality data is expected on active cases. This is due to moving caseloads.
  • Equality reports are shared monthly with teams. An Equality report for all Early Help caseloads is available on the 1st of each month. This is shared with management.
  • In August 2023 the service introduced a new ‘About You’ survey for under 16s. This can be completed by the child or young person, or on their behalf by a parent/carer if they are under the age of 12 or not able to respond for themselves. Response rates to this are slow and this will be investigated further to see how this is used. 

Fostering

Fostering offers children aged 0-18 a safe and caring family while they are unable to live with their own. The team are responsible for placing every child in East Sussex who needs care.

Annual Monitoring

You Said:

  • Those who gave feedback felt that there had been improvement in the inclusion and recognition of foster carers as valuable members of the ‘team around the child’
  • Feedback highlighted that response times for action has improved, and that foster carers feel better informed about the backgrounds and needs of children and young people.
  • The increase to fuel and fostering allowances was well received, though respondents would appreciate further review.
  • Those who gave feedback felt that additional training would be useful, particularly ‘court skills’ and ‘The teenage brain’.
  • The provision of respite to carers has been a challenge in recent years

We Did:

Respite support:

  • Relative to all other approval categories respite foster carer approval has been fairly successful for the period 23/24. However, there has been a significant shortage of placements overall therefore these new approvals have often found themselves caring for young people placed directly from home or requiring emergency care.

Review of mileage:

  • A review of the qualifying criteria before mileage and expenses are claimed by foster carers took place. The criteria was revised to a qualifying mileage of 40 miles and a mileage rate of 45p per mile, in line with all staff at East Sussex County Council.

Training and Development for Staff and Foster Carers

  • Two new trainings have been developed because of feedback from foster carers:
    • Court Skills: Training on court skills
    • ‘The Teenage Brain’ training

Fostering (Assessment)

You Said:

  • The ESCC assessment process is comprehensive.
  • Administrative delays in terms of arrival of references and other forms could be improved.
  • Some cases were concerned about age being looked upon as a ‘negative’

 We Did:

  • Quality assurance processes are continually under review and always taken forward as learning where there are issues of practice
  • Potential foster carer are provided with a clear rationale for the assessment process from the Q&A call onwards. The assessment report template is shared and reviewed with applicants

Fostering (Panel)

You Said:

  • Locations for meetings can be uncomfortable and refreshments would be ring panel meetings

We Did

  • Panel now meets at an alternative venue which is more comfortable and equipped with refreshment facilities.
  • Panel invitations are sent from a Fostering Panel Mailbox rather than an individual email box to ensure emails can be accessed during leave.

Looked After Children

Bright Spots Survey

You Said:

  • Feeling ‘safe’ is about emotional and mental well-being, not just physical safety
  • A sense of positive well-being relies on having friends, taking part in activities, feeling a sense of worth and knowing that the people whom young people trust are there for them.
  • It’s important not to do things that make children in care stand out as ‘different’, (staff wearing lanyards when visiting, being taken out of lessons for meetings, care status noted in registers).
  • Being involved in decisions about young people's lives helps them to feel ‘safe’.

We Did:

Positive Activities and Social Prescribing

  • Care experienced children and young people will be included in the offer of Holiday Activity and Food Programme.
  • The pilot programme for social prescribing and positive activities includes unaccompanied asylum seeking children. A mid-term review was completed in October.

Bullying, Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing

  • The concerns that children and young people raised around bullying was communicated to schools as part of the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Schools and Colleges Conference in January 2024, as well as distributed in the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing newsletter.

SWIFT

SWIFT provides specialist assessment and interventions for parents and children. SWIFT have specialist experts in the following parental presentations:

  • Mental Health
  • Drug and Alcohol Misuse
  • Learning Disability
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Sexual Risk

You Said:

  • Parents/Carers felt treated with respect, and able to engage in their process.
  • Young people felt they were able to engage in the process and felt listened too as well as able to talk.
  • Reports were clear and easy to understand.
  • This report would benefit from more consistency in the way user feedback is collected for closed cases.

We Did:

Including Closed Cases in more feedback mechanisms

  • Closed cases are reviewed monthly by managers in team meetings
  • Phone feedback has resumed for closed cases, text feedback is continuing to run successfully, and paper copies continue to be used.
  • Opening up feedback mechanisms to those who are working with SWIFT as well as recent discharges has improved response rate.

Enhancing report sharing practice:

  • Methods to improve report sharing practice has been enhanced. Managers have met to agree a process which will be implemented in each theme.
  • Reports are usually shared face to face, dependent on wishes of the people using the service, and whether the case is in court or not.

Youth Justice Service

The Youth Justice Service work with Services and the Reparation teams to support positive outcomes for young people at risk of criminal exploitation. They work in partnership with:

  • Sussex Police
  • the Probation Service
  • the NHS
  • the voluntary sector.

You Said:

  • Young people have built good relationships with practitioners.
  • Young people felt supported by their youth justice worker and were comfortable to discuss racism / bias with their workers regardless of the worker’s ethnicity.
  • Young people highlighted that there are not enough fun things to do locally.
  • Parents who provided feedback said that they felt it would have been good if the issue of racism was specifically raised at the assessment stage. Parents would feel reassured to know that it was being considered at the early stages of planning, assessment and intervention.
  • Parents would like to feel safe where they live.
  • Parents feel that their young people could do better with:
    • treating them with respect
    • developing coping strategies when difficulties arise, and
    • keeping themselves safe.

We Did:

Continuing active Anti-Racism practices with staff

  • Staff in the Youth Justice Service have been working as part of the Race Equality in the Workforce Pilot, which is _
  • A diversity working group has been established in the Youth Justice Service, which highlights diversity months such as:
    • Black History month
    • LGBT History month
  • Staff have received additional equality monitoring training to support

Voice of the Child / Family

  • New feedback templates for young people have been developed to support the YJS in sharing their experience of the YJS at the assessment stage and for those subject to longer Court orders.

Whole Family working

  • The Youth Justice Service are providing training for practitioners on whole family working
  • Parent Carer groups are run throughout the year.

Taking a Strengths-Based, Child Centred approach

  • All interventions run by the service follow a strengths based approach
  • A small pot of money has been made available to practitioners that they can use to support young people engage in positive activities.

Youth Voice: Children in Care Council

The Children in Care Council (CiCC) is a group of young people aged between 13 and 19 in care and living in East Sussex. They meet to have their say on issues that matter to looked after children. Members serve for 3 years.

You Said:

  • Young people felt recognised and valued by the adults who work in East Sussex County Council
  • Young people felt able to share their opinions and experiences with lots of people. Young people would be interested to seek more views of looked after children not just CiCC members, particularly with younger children.
  • Young people shared that they had made some very good friends with other CiCC members, and feel supported by staff they know and trust.
  • Young people would like to hear back from more of the adults about what they have done with what CiCC have told them
  • Stricter monitoring of the pledge
  • Young people were interested to explore opportunities for merchandise to promote the CiCC.
  • Young people were keen to link together with other CiCC groups
  • Young people asked for some specific training on writing CVs and first aid

We Did:

Keeping young people aware of the long term impact of their work:

  • CiCC staff have kept in contact with most previous adult visitors to see if there have been any developments.
  • This has been more successful, especially in regard to larger projects that the CiCC have consulted on.

Promoting the CiCC and its work:

  • New hoodies have been purchased for CiCC members to wear out on ‘official’ CiCC work.
  • Extra funding is needed for promotional materials, such as keyrings, pens or fidget toys. This will be explored 2024-2025.

Stricter monitoring of the pledge

  • The pledge is being relaunched in 2024, which provides a good opportunity to raise its profile.

Seeking the views of looked after children outside of the CiCC

  • The team have met with junior aged CYP in school holidays and at various events in East Sussex.
  • The CiCC now has a regular member from residential care, which has enabled young people and staff to hear experiences of residential care.

Practical skill building:

  • Staff held a CV writing day with a charity from Heathfield in the summer, and plan to do so again in summer 2024.

Communications, Planning and Performance

Admissions and Transport

The Admissions and Transport service is responsible for:

  • Allocating primary and secondary school paces at community and controlled schools
  • Coordinating admissions for all schools at ages 4,7 and 11
  • Deciding eligibility for school transport to mainstream schools
  • Processing claims for free school meals

You Said:

  • Happy with the ease of use of the system.
  • Staff are helpful and quick to respond.
  • Dissatisfied with the complexity of the process.
  • In some cases, information received is unclear or incorrect.

We Did:

Development of a web-based portal:

  • Web-based portal is being designed to be more initiative for users to operate.
  • There have been some issues with the web-based portal, but the development is progressing, and the system should be rolled out in summer 2024.

Communication and automatic responses:

  • Automated responses will continue to be used, as they provide important information for most users, but do not replace bespoke responses to those who need them.

Unsuccessful applicants are signposted towards their appeal rights where they exist.

Children's Services: Customer Relations Team

The Customer Relations Team in Children’s Services provide general advice, guidance and signposting to families. The team helps with:

  • finding childcare
  • taking feedback and complaints about Children’s Services.

You Said:

  • The team were prompt to reply.
  • Team are always helpful, and provide valuable information.
  • Quick and efficient

We Did:  

Making improvements to feedback mechanisms

  • Customer Relations are now using the East Sussex County Council customer thermometer to get more feedback.
  • The thermometer has been added to the end of signatures for the Family Information Service and Complaints team
  • Customer relations continue to highlight their openness to understand why customers provide negative comments.

Holiday, Activity and Food (HAF) Programme

The Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAF) provide a range of activities and food during school holidays at local Holiday food and fun clubs. The HAF programme is funded by the Department for Education

You Said:

  • The HAF offer is popular and well attended, with positive feedback received by young people and their families
  • Comments highlighted skilled or friendly staff and the inclusivity of SEND on activities.
  • Feedback forms could be more accessible, particularly for younger and SEND young people and families.

We Did:

Review signposting sources and share with providers

  • Signposting resources are reviewed before each holiday and shared with all funded providers
  • Resources are available as a PDF and through the Holiday, Food and Fun website. These resources have been updated to include new services (Healthy Habits, Social Prescribing Positive Activity Offers)

Develop marketing and promotion

  • The HAF Comms plan has been reviewed before each delivery period in 2023-2024.
  • Promotion has been planned to go through Council social media channels and directly to local schools
  • Everyone who books a session on the booking platform are asked whether they’d like to consent to marketing. This has meant that 3,500 eligible families have been contacted prior to each holiday launch.
  • The HAF team promoted the programme through networking events in 2023, and have continued to do this in 2024.

Developing mental health support offer within HAF provision

  • Storm break offer was piloted by one HAF provider in 2023. Funding hasn’t been available to extend this further.
  • Best practice and resources for supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing has been shared with all providers as part of an information pack
  • These resources have been developed following HAF provider visits, and with input from the Social Prescribing and Positive Activities pilot in Children’s Services.

Funding has been prioritised for HAF providers offering mental health and emotional wellbeing support within their offer.

Youth Voice: Youth Cabinet

The Youth Cabinet members are young people aged 11 to 18 years old. They are elected to represent the views of young people in East Sussex. The youth cabinet run co-produced campaigns.

You Said:

  • Feedback from young people highlighted the social benefits and advantages of being part of Youth Cabinet
  • Young people appreciated the youth-led approach with the campaigns.
  • Young people highlighted the benefit of meetings steered by the interests and priorities of the group
  • Some young people highlighted how important it is for decision makers to listen to views and recognise the work of the Youth Council.