The Mayor invited the Leader to present the report.
The Leader took opportunity to again thank Chris Humphreys for undertaking the Director’s role during this period. The Director of Social Services Annual Report 2020/2021 was completed by Chris Humphrey. Chris undertook the role of Acting Director of Social Services from December 2019 – October 2021. This report reflects the period when Chris stepped up into the role under the most exceptional of circumstances.
The report reflected the unprecedented period of demand and delivery for Social Services across Children’s and Adults social care. In May 2021 Care Inspectorate Wales undertook an Assurance Check which looked back at the period of 2020/2021. In their check they noted:
“We found support was underpinned by a relationship of openness and honesty about the options available for people who need care and support and carers who need support”.
Children’s services were experiencing unprecedented demand and increase in referrals while in adult services they were working under significant pressure. The findings identified a culture of improvement and mutual support and a recognition of positive leadership. It was noted that while staff were exhausted with complex high volume case work morale was generally good.
Across Adults and Children’s Social care delivery of services continued with all levels of provision being maintained despite the impact of the pandemic. From Community Connectors, and children’s preventative services to advocacy, home care, and family support through to statutory interventions in family justice and provision of foster care and residential homes care and support was offered to citizens directly. Staff continued with face to face service delivery as well as seeking out innovative solutions in order to address the restrictions of the pandemic.
Adult Services developed a new outreach service and successfully embedded its hospital discharge processes into the new Grange Hospital that opened in September 2020. The Hospital and Reablement teams were present at hospital sites throughout.
While in Children’s Services the introduction of the Rapid Response team and the delivery of Baby and Me supported families to be able to safely care for their children within the family home.
Working in partnership across the public sector and with our communities was key to being able to continue to deliver positive and robust services. At all levels of Social Services officers and Members continued to represent the Council in regional and National fora including the Safeguarding Boards, Regional Partnership Board, Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children regional group and a plethora of partnership groups specifically to address the demands of the pandemic and ensure services could be delivered effectively across all agencies.
While 2020/2021 brought enormous pressures across Social Services the report outlined the extraordinary ways in which staff continued to care for and protect our most vulnerable citizens. Going forward into 2021/2022 would bring significant challenges but will undoubtedly create opportunities to continue to improve services.
The Leader invited the Cabinet Member for Social Services to say a few words and also took the opportunity to thank the Cabinet Member for his hard work and dedication to the services.
Councillor Cockeram firstly mentioned that he concurred with the Leader’s comments about Chris Humphrey and the excellent job she did during the pandemic and the continued service delivery by Social Services during the pandemic and also thanked all members of the council staff for their contribution over the past two years. There were big challenges faced by Social Services, including safeguarding. Having the Police and the health sector in the Safeguarding Hub was a big improvement. This was a pilot scheme in Newport was now being rolled out across Wales after its success. In addition to this, with schools being in lockdown and not knowing what was happening to children could also be an issue.
The Council had 380 looked after children, with 256 of those in foster care. Foster carers where looking after the majority of the children and the Cabinet Member wanted to thank them for their hard work. The Council had also seen 26 successful adoptions during the lockdown. One of the are where the Cabinet Member was pleased about was the Childrens Services residential homes which was also a big success and minister wrote a letter to thank the Council for this service.
There was 840 referrals from the new hospital in Llanfrechfca and 475 were discharged, which meant they prevented 60% of these going to hospital. There was also a new Dementia Reablement Service which was doing well.
The Cabinet Member thanked the Regional Partnership Board for their funding, on which the Local Authorities relied upon. The report also went to scrutiny and received positive comments. There were underspend but we were currently not in the real world because of the impact of covid.
The Cabinet Member thanked the staff who had been exemplary but were also tired and there was a general issue with staffing across Wales. The Cabinet Member felt that a regional report was needed on how to increase staffing and request that Coleg Gwent and other colleges to provide bursaries to encourage people to enter the profession and work for the council. Finally, the Cabinet Member considered that overall this was a positive report.
The Corporate Director for Social Services, Sally Jenkins was invited to also say a few words. The Corporate Director reiterated thanks to Chris Humphrey, as well as thanking staff as the pressure on them was huge. Staff were tired and morale was low but the positive messages and also with a commitment for staff to continue to work for Newport by retaining students was a tribute to the support offered to them from the Council. The report covered the year of 2021 but it felt that we had rolled straight over into another period of real challenge for 2022.
Finally, the Corporate Director took the opportunity to thank the Cabinet Member for Social Services along with other elected members for their support whilst Social Services continued to deliver their services. In light of the Omicron variant, there was concern about how staff would continue to work, however this would be monitored and Social Services would to everything to ensure the best service with the support offered.
Comments from councillors:
§ Councillor Hughes thanked Chris Humphrey for her report and recalled working for her as a social worker. The Councill was proud of the teams and the way they conducted themselves. As a social worker himself he felt that it was often undervalued. The Councill also mentioned the progress being made with foster care in Newport.
That Council received the Annual Report of the Director of Social Services, 2020/21.