Service Auditing:

“Innovate CYPS quickly mobilised and managed a team of high-quality auditors. They provided detailed insight at a time where we needed a trusted external view on the quality of assessments, interventions, and case management. Although we’ve got a way to go, we’re confident that we now have a clear improvement plan that has been informed by this work.”
Paula Jemson, Quality Assurance Manager, Middlesbrough Council



4 Director-level auditors



386 cases audited



12-week thematic audit service



101 reflective/mentoring meetings with managers

The Challenge

A disappointing Ofsted inspection of the local authority children’s services in November 2019, revealed that a high proportion of audited cases “did not adequately explore children’s lived experiences”. Audits were not “consistently addressing weaknesses”.

With Children’s Services having been judged as ‘Inadequate’ across the board, the local authority needed a far more robust and thorough audit process. This was to understand exactly where its failings were – at a service, team and individual practitioner level – so that it could quickly move forward with improvement plans.

The Solution:

To address the underlying case recording issues and accurately assess the existing position, the local authority called on Innovate CYPS to take over the auditing process over a 12-week period. This was to help inform the local authority’s immediate assurance plan to Ofsted over the same period. Quick mobilisation was key, and the project went live within three weeks.

First actions

Innovate CYPS’ first action was to allocate four highly-experienced social work auditors at assistant-director level and above.

The project could not have started at a more challenging time though. Just two weeks after the work started, the country went into full lockdown. Usually, Innovate CYPS’ auditors would be sitting amongst the local authority’s team.

However, Middlesbrough County Council were incredibly accommodating, ensuring the communications channels were open and that Innovate CYPS had the direct access required.

Together, Innovate CYPS and Middlesbrough quickly adapted, working remotely to communicate findings and to identify and monitor remedial actions from audits.

Moderation exercise

Since the local authority’s own internal auditing had not been externally scrutinised or moderated, Innovate CYPS’ moderated 386 case audits previously undertaken by internal managers. This enabled Innovate CYPS’ auditors to gain a thorough understanding of the inconsistencies in case auditing and to identify any specific challenges unique to Middlesbrough County Council.

Following the initial moderation exercise, Innovate CYPS’ auditors systematically audited 386 cases. These were all RAG-rated so that the local authority knew exactly where it was in closing the loop. Remedial actions were identified, with social workers having five days to complete them. These actions were closely monitored by Innovate CYPS’ business support team. To assist with completing the remedial actions, the auditors held remote workshops, 1:1 coaching and mentored staff.

Weekly risks and issues meetings were held to identify specific team and practitioner issues. In addition, monthly high-quality detailed audit reports were presented to the Operations and Strategic Management Board.

The results

Over 12 weeks, Innovate CYPS audited over 386 cases, including 87 assessment team audits, 63 front door audits, 105 neglect audits, 65 risk audits and 66 repeat Section 47 audits.

It was important that cases were audited as close to ‘live’ as possible to get an accurate picture of the current situation. Therefore, audits were carried out on assessments made within the previous week. This gave management far greater oversight on the quality of assessments and decision making at the front door.

During the second half of the project, Innovate CYPS’ auditors moderated 33 internal audits and provided reflective feedback on any inconsistencies in findings. This enabled learning and knowledge transfer on what ‘Good’ looks like.

Mentoring and reflecting

In total, 101 mentoring and reflection meetings were held with managers to enhance case management in their teams.

Feedback to the Director of Children’s Services and Paula Jemson, the project sponsor, also took place on a regular basis where direct feedback was provided.

Commenting on the long-term impact of the thematic auditing and how it has informing best practice, Paula said:

“My advice would be to make full use of Innovate CYPS’ auditors and practitioners and soak up their knowledge and approach. By working closely with Innovate CYPS we’ve got a clear improvement plan. Now that we know what ‘Good’ looks like, we’re closely monitoring the quality of case management and where changes need to be made.”

Children in Need

Do you need support in progressing your current child in need cases?

Innovate CYPS’ 14-week Children in Need (CIN) programme significantly reduces the long-term reliance on CIN plans, eliminates drift and identifies those children at risk, earlier.

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Duty & Assessment

Are you looking for more capacity within your duty and assessment team to clear a backlog of cases?

Or do you reprieve to look at a service restructure? We can help by managing cases coming in for referral and assessment.

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Edge of Care

Do you need support to reduce your Edge of Care costs and breaking the cycle of care?

Our award-winning solution brings statutory social work and multidisciplinary support together to deliver sustainable positive outcomes and huge cost-savings.

Break the cycle with Innovate
High-Cost Placements

Do you need support to secure better outcomes for children with complex needs?

We can support you in providing a sustainable alternative by managing cases to identify suitable stable placements or by taking children and young people through our residential Innovate Therapeutic Care programme.

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Discharge of Care

Do you have a high number of children at home on care orders that you need support in reducing?

Innovate can support you by reducing your children-looked-after (CLA) numbers and create direct cost-savings.

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Do you need additional support due to further requirements around capacity to manage your most complex cases?

We provide extra capacity to handle incoming cases and/or to work those that may have drifted, and introduce proven sustainable longer-term solutions to reduce the risk of drift and delay.

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Children with Disabilities

Do you need support to manage your current cohort of children with disabilities?

Innovate CYPS’ 14-week Children with Disabilities programme reduces costs whilst identifying new care pathways for children, young people and their families.

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Service Auditing

How confident are you that you know the quality of your service?

In complex children’s social work environments, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of under-performance. Whether you’re preparing for Ofsted or are on an improvement journey, knowing what ‘Good’ looks like is important.

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  • Children in Need
  • Duty & Assessment
  • Edge of Care
  • High-Cost Placements
  • Discharge of Care
  • Safeguarding
  • Children with Disabilities
  • Service Auditing

Want to know more?

Contact us to find out more about our service auditing programme.

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