Service Auditing: North West Council



100 cases audited


5 months

5-month phased Thematic Service Audit



Three highly-experienced auditors, on-site at least 4 days a week

Innovate Services, service auditing, audit process, social work audit, children's services, case study

The challenge

A disappointing Ofsted inspection of children’s social care services earlier in the year revealed, amongst many things, that case records did not accurately take account of the child’s lived experience, managers’ case recording was limited in evidence and the case discussions on children’s files was too brief. Furthermore, the quality assurance in the six months leading up to the Ofsted inspection had not accurately assessed practice. This was because there were continued concerns regarding the application of thresholds throughout the council.

To address the underlying case recording issues and accurately assess the existing position, the council called on Innovate CYPS to carry out a robust thematic audit of 100 cases.

Our approach

Fully managing the service audit process over 5 months, our first action was to allocate three highly experienced social work auditors at assistant-director level and above to carry out thematic audits. The auditors were based at the local authority for four days per week and worked from home the remaining day.

Since previous audit work has not been subject to external scrutiny or moderation, Innovate CYPS’ first task involved the moderation of 41 case audits previously undertaken by internal managers.

Innovate Services, service auditing, audit process, social work audit, children's services, case study

The next phase

Following the first 41 case audit reviews, 28 cases of Children in Need or those subject to a child protection plan were audited.  This was followed by a further 28 cases of Looked-After-Children, care leavers and contacts that led to no further action at the front door.

The final phase of auditing involved 10 referrals leading to Early Help, five referrals to assessment and five to Section 47. In addition, moderation of 10 audits completed by the internal managers were undertaken.

Weekly data reports were provided to the council identifying the number of audits completed, the teams the case belonged to, case type and grading. Monthly reports also evidenced findings, identified trends, themes, patterns, quality of practice and the impact of intervention.

Upskilling and mentoring

Crucially, the auditors focused on upskilling and mentoring staff to improve quality of their own case file audits focusing on outcomes for children and young people and looking at the impact of intervention. They devised remedial action plans for every case file audit undertaken using a RAG rating system. Once a case audit was completed, social workers/team managers were given a maximum of five days to complete remedial actions.  To assist with completing the remedial actions, the auditors held workshops, 1:1 coaching and mentored staff. Similarly, team managers were also given training to enhance case management within their teams.

Innovate Services’ Head of Service also undertook a moderation exercise of a sample of case audits that the Innovates team of auditors had completed. This added another layer of managerial oversight.

Feedback to the Director of Social Care and the project sponsor also took place on a regular basis where direct feedback was provided.

Innovate Services, service auditing, audit process, social work audit, children's services, case study

The results

With the auditors all experienced at assistant director-level and above, Innovate CYPS provided an objective view; drawing on the experiences of other local authorities.  The team chased remedial actions and were able to look at the impact of the audits.  They also used the audit findings to not only evidence knowledge-gaps in the workforce but also within service areas.

With knowledge-transfer being a key element of Innovate CYPS’ Service Auditing offer, the council’s audit process is now more robust and complies with the local authority’s policies and procedures. Case recording has also improved, with social workers and managers better informed on how to evidence the child’s lived experience. Threshold application is beginning to be better understood and embedded, and the council know themselves better.

What our clients say

“If it was not for Innovate CYPS’ Social Worker’s persistence and patience we would not be where we are with the family today.”

Olivia Wittich, Alternative Provision Manager,
Enfield Secondary Behaviour Support Service

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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

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

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High-Cost Placements

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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

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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?

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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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