Agenda item

Safeguarding processes - outcome of the review by the Institute of Public Care

Wiltshire Council commissioned the Institute of Public Care (IPC) at Oxford Brookes University to undertake a follow up review of Support and Safeguarding Services across the county. The review was undertaken between July 2022 and February 2023 and the summary findings are presented in the attached report.


The chair informed the committee that Wiltshire Council had commissioned the Institute of Public Care (IPC) at Oxford Brookes University to undertake a follow up review of Support and Safeguarding Services across the county. The review was undertaken between July 2022 and February 2023 and the summary findings are presented in the attached report.


Jen Salter (Director for Families and Children) and Professor Katy Burch (Assistant Director, Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University) were invited to present the report.



The review looked at 4 key areas:


  • Child and family presenting needs and overall ‘demand’ for support and safeguarding.


  • Thresholds and families getting ‘the right help at the right time’.


  • The quality and effectiveness of Support and Safeguarding Services.


  • Supports for effective practice.


Key points raised:


Interviews were conducted regarding decision making with people working at Wiltshire Council and key partners.


There had been a re-growth in contact being made with the local authority, and even though rates of looked after children remained lower than geographically neighbouring authorities, rates when compared to ‘outstanding’ local authorities had a similar proportion. There was however a downward pressure in demand, largely due to a reduction in re-referrals.


When looking at the nature of demand, factors relating to poverty, unwillingness to return to school and substance misuse were identified.

Other characteristics were identified including disability - 14% had a diagnosed disability, mainly ADHD. This increased to 1/5th when looking at the whole child journey and up to 1/3rd of front door referrals was linked to a disability.


Key questions about families getting the right help at the right time were asked, including the rates of threshold criteria being met and when to refer a child.


It was found that all staff and partners interviewed were aware of the council’s threshold documentation and had received training on it. Most staff thought thresholds for targeted support service were clear.


There are key indicators of success in Wiltshire Council’s handling of Safeguarding and Support. Child protection investigations had been reduced and a tendency for better early help and prevention in the community. Partners felt reassured they could challenge the Council and ask questions when necessary. Referrals had timely handling and efficiency. Oversight was noted as being particularly strong and positive. Practitioners also felt listened to and that they could challenge approaches. It was witnessed that children were not having to repeat their experiences at multiple stages which was a major positive.


There are ongoing challenges to recruit and retain social workers, however Wiltshire Council was identified as having experienced family support workers that provided consistency and good quality assessments and reports with significant detail. Analysis was also seen as strong and contributed significantly to key decision making.


Although overwhelmingly positive, some areas where further improvement could be made were identified….


The responsiveness of commissioned services (particularly substance misuse and domestic abuse) had dropped off. Families coming into the Council’s safeguarding process are vulnerable and some need in person support, not just online as this is not always suitable.


Gaps around adult mental health and wellbeing were identified, specifically around criteria for help being too high.


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) - support for suspected ADHD children was described as needing improvement and the level of need described as overwhelming. The burden of work in the area was mainly falling on family support workers to fill. Support workers end up filling lots of roles and may not have specialist training. Some children with less complex Special Educational Needs had fewer options than before and the offer of activities during school holidays had been reduced. However, getting a diagnosis was seen as the biggest stumbling block.


It was summarised that the majority of areas were extremely strong with good staff and practices. A small number of areas including early help for children have been identified for improvement.




During debate a number of clarifications and points were raised:


The committee thanked the Director for Families and Children and Professor Katy Burch Assistant Director, Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University for report and welcome positive findings.


Youth services are involved in key decision where appropriate. For the most part safeguarding decisions often involve police and social services.


The importance of including community led partners in feedback was stressed.


A support worker previously employed at Wiltshire Council was quoted as saying they felt prevented from attending the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and giving insight since leaving even though they had set up a charity that works with children with mental health difficulties. It was clarified that partners would be invited to strategy discussions where relevant, and that the Council would not want people to feel they haven’t been treated like professionals.


On the use of Area Board funding for supporting work with children on their mental health, it was reminded that there is a youth provision in Area Board grants but the ongoing task group surrounding this may decide to make a recommendation shortly about interfacing with partners.


The Council is aware of the needs of young people regarding mental health and have worked closely with the Integrated Care Board (ICB). The model is being reviewed and a workshop was held specifically on children’s mental health.


Looking at schools’ contribution to early support is important and when a review was made over 3 years ago it was found that schools were more enthusiastic to refer children to services and less so in taking a lead role themselves compared with currently. Schools are not begrudgingly accepting step downs from statutory support plans but rather are remaining supportive and understanding of children’s ongoing needs.


It is not unusual for schools to find their referrals accepted for support plans more often than other partners as the police are more likely to refer for a safeguarding issue whereas schools are more likely to refer cases when not an out and out safeguarding issue. This hasn’t been considered a concern.


The benefits of having Oxford Brooks conducting a review was emphasised and the need to compare to other local authorities to understand progress and to learn was stressed.


It was clarified that the report shared at the committee was only a summary report and that more detail could be provided. The report shows that Wiltshire Council are doing well and should be seen as a significant positive and congratulation to Children’s Services. All local authorities are different in providing children’s services, but comparisons yielded similar positive statistics which indicates good practise.


Actions to tackle substance abuse and mental health issues are going to be drawn from the recommendations of the report and be used with the Service Delivery Plans. This will be brought back to the committee to consider.



It was clarified that post 16 transition from NEET was not included in the report as it wasn’t a strong feature and wasn’t being focused on in the context of looking at all features of support and safeguarding across the county. NEET figures were not looked at due to the theme of the report being safeguarding.


When asked about the rates of Looked After Children per 10,000, it was emphasised that the report had focussed on comparing Wiltshire with outstanding local authorities in rural areas, rather than those in large urban areas. When compared directly with outstanding rural authorities Wiltshire’s rates were broadly in line and supported the conclusion that good practice was taking place.


The Chairman believed the report marked a milestone Wiltshire’s journey of improvement over the past decade. We now have a report which show we deliver for young people in Wiltshire.


The full report can be found in the agenda pack.




To consider the recommendations again in an update report within 6 months.


The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 and was resumed at 12:00


Supporting documents: