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1.1.3 Quality Assurance Framework

This Framework was added to the Procedures in December 2014.


Contents

  1. Principles and Purpose
  2. Summary
  3. Case File Audits
  4. Supervision Audit
  5. Staff Observation
  6. Observation of Meetings

    Appendix A: OFSTED Handbook - Observations of Practice


1. Principles and Purpose

The principles and purpose of this Quality Assurance Framework are aligned with the ‘Journey to Better Outcomes’ framework for learning and improvement. The key elements for our service are set out below:

  • Child Centred: the focus of quality assurance will be on the experiences, progress and outcomes of the child or young person on their journey through our social work and safeguarding systems;
  • Restorative: quality assurance will be restorative. Instead of a top down approach, quality assurance work will be based on working with staff and managers and building relationships. As a restorative process quality assurance will be characterised by both high support and high challenge;
  • Outcomes Based: in line with the key behaviours for children’s services, the proper focus of quality assurance will be on outcomes rather than processes;
  • Positive: our approach to quality assurance will be positive - looking at informing and encouraging improvement and supporting the development of staff and services;
  • Reflective: our quality assurance framework is designed to be about promoting reflective practice and shared learning.


2. Summary

The key elements of the Quality Assurance Framework within the Children’s Social Work Service are as follows:

  • Case File Audits. All Managers will undertake audits to assess the quality of recording, practice and the outcomes and experiences of children and young people. This includes:
    • A random sample of 10% of cases per year;
    • A programme of thematic audits on key issues of concern for the service.
  • Supervision Audit. The quality of supervision is crucial to front line practice. Supervision will be assured by:
    • A regular monthly audit of supervision records;
    • An annual survey of staff.
  • Staff Observation. All staff will be observed to assess the quality of their practice in working with children and families and/or partner agencies. Staff observation will include all staff but with additional focus on those with additional development needs such as newly qualified staff;
  • Meeting observation. Key decision-making meetings will be observed through a programme led by senior leaders within the service to assure their effectiveness. Observations will consider key factors such as leadership by social work staff, multi-agency working, and the involvement of children and families.

In addition to these processes driven by service leaders, the Children’s Social Work Service work closely with a range of other colleagues and partners to support wider quality assurance and learning. The Children’s Social Work Service regularly reviews the findings of these processes and agrees shared improvement plans through the Children’s Services Practice Improvement Group:

  • Integrated Safeguarding Unit Quality Assurance. The ISU leads key quality assurance processes including:
    • Independent Reviewing Officers reviews of Children Looked After;
    • CP Chairs reviews of children subject to a Child Protection Plan;
    • ISU review of CSE and Missing cases.
  • Virtual Head teacher Quality Reviews. The Virtual School quality assures the development and review all Personal Education Plans to assure their effectiveness in meeting each child’s needs for learning;
  • Local Safeguarding Children Board: The LSCB undertakes a wide programme of quality assurance and audit each year and the Children’s Social Work Service works closely with the LSCB to support this programme;
  • Fostering and Adoption quality assurance. The Fostering and Adoption teams have their own additional quality assurance and audit processes focusing on the specialist roles and practice of workers in these areas;
  • Complaints: complaints provide a key element of quality assurance and source of intelligence on strengths and areas for improvement;
  • Involving Children and Young People: there are a range of regular groups and surveys that provide valuable insights into the views and experiences of children, young people and families. These include the established formal groups - Have A Voice Council, Care Leavers Council and Youth Council; regular focus groups and surveys such as the annual Care Monitor survey.


3. Case File Audits

Rationale

Case file audits provide an invaluable perspective on front line practice. Effective audits can provide insight not into the quality of recording but also into the quality of work with the child, the quality of management and support for the worker and, importantly, the views, experiences and outcomes for the child.

Since 2013, the service has been trialling a revised approach for case file auditing, modelled on the documents used by OFSTED inspectors. The trial has been successful and has provided additional insights into the practice, management and the progress of children and young people. The framework below sets out how this will operate.

In broad terms the service intends to:

  • Complete file audits on a random 10% sample of cases each year (c.1000) to assess progress in improving practice and identify priorities for learning and improvement;
  • Complete a programme of thematic audits on issues where there are key concerns for the service, to support plans and learning for improvement e.g. Care Leavers, Assessment.

Roles and Responsibilities

Team Managers

  • All Team Managers will undertake one case file audit per month;
  • Team Managers will undertake up to four additional thematic audits each year on key areas of concern for the service.

Service Delivery Managers

  • All Service Delivery Managers will undertake one case file audit per month;
  • Service Delivery Managers will undertake up to four additional thematic audits each year on key areas of concern for the service.

Heads of Service

  • All Heads of Service will undertake one case file audit per month;
  • Service Delivery Managers will undertake up to four additional thematic audits each year on key areas of concern for the service.

All Auditors will:

  • Ensure that the audit findings are recorded and sent to the Performance Team;
  • Ensure that Follow Up Actions are notified to the Worker, Manager within 48 hours, and copied to IRO/CP Chair as required;
  • Offer a shared reflective discussion with the worker on the case audited.

Leadership Groups

  • CSDMs, SLT, Practice Improvement Group will all consider the findings of case file audits at least quarterly, highlighting key learning points and identifying actions for workforce development etc.

Forms and Guidance

Click here to view the Case File Audit Template.


4. Supervision Audit

Rationale

Effective frontline supervision is vital for effective front line social work practice. Previous inspections in Leeds, and more recent internal and LSCB quality assurance, suggest that there continues to be too much variability in the quality and regularity of supervision for social workers.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Service Delivery Managers will undertake one audit of a Team Manager’s supervision records each month;
  • SDMs to select supervision file at random;
  • SDM to review findings of audit with Team Manager at their next supervision;
  • SDM and TM to agree actions at review;
  • SDMs to send copy of audit record to Performance Team and on completion of review with TM;
  • SDM to prepare quarterly summary of issues and learning from supervision audits;
  • HoS to review SDM’s Supervision Audit findings quarterly;
  • CSDMs, CSWS SLT, Practice Improvement Group to review learning of Supervision Audit every six months.

Audit Areas and Judgements

Quality of supervision to be assessed against key areas developed from national research and best practice, as follows:

  • Organisation and recording;
  • Quality of relationship;
  • Task Assistance and Access to Services;
  • Social and Emotional Support;
  • Reflective Practice;
  • Impact on Practice;
  • Overall Judgement.

Forms and Guidance

See the Resources and Forms Library for the Supervision Quality Assurance and Audit.

In line with the case file audit process, auditors are asked to provide an overall rating for each area and explain this with a clear rationale for their decision.


5. Staff Observation

Rationale

Observation of staff in their everyday work is an important element of quality assuring front line social work. Supervision and case file audits on their own are useful but cannot fully assess the way workers work, support and build relationships with children, young people and families. Observation of practice provides a complementary alternative, offering an opportunity to gain a picture of the way that workers work with children and families, their behaviours, outlook and approach.

The Children’s Social Work Service approach to staff observation will be closely linked to appraisals. Issues to assess at observation will be informed by Appraisal priorities and, in turn, observation findings will be a key source of information for staff appraisals.

Roles and Responsibilities

Team Managers/Advanced Practitioners

  • All Team Managers (or APs where agreed locally) will observe the practice of newly qualified workers in line with local and national AYSE policy;
  • All Team Managers (or APs where agreed locally) will observe the practice of experienced workers at least once every year;
  • All Team Managers will identify any workers within the team in need of support with improving performance. These workers will be observed at least every 12 months, and more frequently where required;
  • All Team Managers/APs to share Observations with worker and undertake shared reflective review at next supervision. Shared action plan agreed as necessary;
  • All TMs/APs to share completed Observations with SDMs and Performance Team;
  • All TMs/APs to link observation with appraisal process - agree priorities for observation, inform appraisal discussions.

Service Delivery Managers

  • All SDMs will ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place within teams for staff observation;
  • All SDMs will report on the learning from staff observation annually.

Leadership Groups

  • CSDMs, SLT, Practice Improvement Group will all consider the findings of staff observation at least once per year, highlighting key learning points and identifying actions for workforce development etc.
  • Areas and Judgements;
  • Planning and purpose;
  • Knowledge and theory;
  • Intervention and skills;
  • Restorative practice;
  • Partnership working;
  • Critical reflection and analysis;
  • Professionalism;
  • Ethics and diversity;
  • Service user feedback;
  • Partner feedback;
  • Overall judgement.

Forms and Guidance

Click here to view The Staff Observation form.


6. Observation of Meetings

Rationale

In addition to assuring the quality of front line practice, it is important to assess the quality of shared working and decision-making in key meetings because these groups and processes have a key role in the safeguarding system in Leeds. Observation of meetings is an important way to judge how well these important decisions are being made and how different staff, teams and agencies are working with children and families.

Roles and Responsibilities

Head of Service (Safeguarding, Specialist and Targeted)

  • Heads of Service in will observe key meetings twice per year;
  • Heads of Service will complete a record of the observation and discuss this with chair of the meeting. A shared record of learning and actions will be agreed and recorded;
  • Heads of Service will send a copy of the observation record to the Performance Team.

Chief Officer, Deputy Director and Director

  • Senior Leaders will observe key meetings once per year;
  • Roles as above.

Areas and Judgements

The following meetings will be observed:

  • Child Protection Conference - Initial;
  • Child Protection Conference - Review;
  • Strategy discussion/meeting;
  • Core Group meeting;
  • Child Protection Monitoring Visit;
  • Looked After Child Review;
  • Early Help Assessment Meeting;
  • Guidance and Support;
  • Early Help Allocations Meeting;
  • MARAC;
  • DARP (Decision and Review Panel);
  • Legal Planning Meeting.

Each meeting will be assessed in the following areas:

  • Children, young people and their families feel they have been effectively helped;
  • The focus on the child;
  • Attendance and participation or children, young people, and advocates, including effectiveness of communication and involvement, evidence of understanding and impact;
  • Attendance and participation of parents, carers and advocates, including effectiveness of communication and involvement, evidence of understanding and impact;
  • Attendance and participation of professionals and partner agencies;
  • Risk is identified, responded to and reduced;
  • Quality of decision-making - effective and timely?
  • Quality of evidence gathering and information sharing;
  • Quality of assessment and help: comprehensive and up to date?
  • Quality of planning and review. Reviews are timely, effective, appropriately challenging and lead to the delivery of a child-centred plan;
  • Effectiveness of coordination between agencies and quality of joint working;
  • Consideration and impact of age, disability, ethnicity, faith or belief, gender, gender identity, language, race and sexual orientation;
  • Overall effectiveness.

Forms and Guidance

It is proposed to pilot practice observation, in order to develop a model for the service as part of the new QA Framework and to prepare for OFSTED.

Click here to view the Meetings Observation Form.


Appendix A: OFSTED Handbook - Observations of Practice

  1. Observation of practice is a key evidence-gathering activity. Observations will be evaluated in line with the criteria set out in the evaluation schedule;
  2. During any observations of practice, inspectors will be sensitive to the potential pressures on, and the apprehension of, children, young people, families and staff. Inspectors will consider and discuss the appropriateness of each observation and whether they should observe whole or part of the activity. Any observation of planned meetings will be with the explicit and informed consent of the children, young people and families. The relevant practitioners will be asked to gain this consent and inspectors will confirm it with the children, young people and families. Inspectors will explain that the purpose of the inspection is to assess the effectiveness of help, care and protection for children, young people, their families and carers; it is not to make judgements about individuals;
  3. Inspectors will target their inspection activity where they are most likely to gather robust evidence within the time available. This may involve observing meetings such as:
    • Child protection conferences: initial and review;
    • Core groups;
    • Adult service meetings such as those led by mental health teams and drug and alcohol services where children who may be at risk of harm are discussed;
    • Strategy discussions/meetings;
    • Multi-agency panels and risk management meetings;
    • Planned child protection monitoring visits;
    • Children in need reviews;
    • Looked after children reviews;
    • Legal planning meetings[1];
    • Secure accommodation panels'
    • Multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARAC) meetings;
    • Early support and preventative work such as multi-agency ‘team around the child’.
  4. Inspectors will ask managers to observe practice alongside them in some instances, in order to provide opportunities to discuss with managers their own evaluation of practice. After any observation of practice, the inspector is likely to have a brief discussion with the child, young person and family about their experience of the services received and their impact;
  5. The inspector will have a brief discussion with the practitioner (and manager if present) about what they have just observed. They will not provide judgements about the practice observed, but will evaluate what they have seen and discuss their overall impression.

[1] Should there be any question of legal privilege, it is for the client (the local authority) to waive legal privilege rather than their legal advisor.

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