North Yorkshire County Council was one of only four councils in England which, in June 2017, still didn't employ agency staff in children’s services. With budgets squeezed and stability in the workforce recognised as contributing to improved services and better outcomes for children, the council has concentrated on developing a strong, permanent workforce capable of delivering the best results for children.
North Yorkshire County Council was one of only four councils in England, which, in June 2017, still didn't employ agency staff in its children’s services department. With budgets for all increasingly squeezed and stability in the workforce recognised as contributing to improved services and better outcomes for children, this council has concentrated its efforts on developing a strong, permanent workforce capable of delivering the best results for children across the county.
Leadership and a whole-council approach has been transformational. Continued investment in front line services, despite the multi-million pound savings programme familiar to councils across the country, shows recognition of the importance of excellent support for children. The council has also worked hard to engage partners, including schools and prevention services, to develop an ambitious wider children’s services system beyond the council. Good training and development (including partnerships with universities), the right IT systems, excellent support from senior professionals, and flexible working all contribute to a culture that people want to work in – not to mention access to support services and the genuine respect shown to each member of staff.
A drive to increase the number of fostering households within the county has led to only three percent of children in the council’s care being placed out of area – meaning social workers can spend more time with families, doing the job they want to be doing, rather than hours travelling to remote placements.
Referrals are carefully considered by a multi-agency screening team –which includes social workers, prevention workers, police officers and health workers - to make sure that information is shared quickly. This means that children, young people and their families get the right support at the right time through necessary and proportionate interventions, and social worker caseloads are kept manageable. Professional expertise is also being brought into the department for social workers to access, including a specialist child and adolescent mental health service. Family support workers are on hand to give families consistent and effective support on the ground when they most need it, be it early mornings, evenings or weekends, to help establish routines and support struggling parents to stop problems escalating.
The council’s efforts are working. A recent survey of social workers found that 97 per cent of them would recommend North Yorkshire as a good place to be a social worker; the council’s vacancy rate is half the national average at seven per cent; the turnover of social workers is four per cent compared to a national average of 17 per cent; and sickness is 25 per cent below the national average.
It isn’t just social worker retention that’s improved - outcomes for children are on the rise, and the number of looked-after children has fallen by 20 per cent to its lowest level for six years, while a recent Local Government Association peer review described outcomes achieved for vulnerable children as genuinely inspiring.
Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but our children’s services are under increasing pressure.
Bright Futures is our call for fully funded children's services.