Chief Social Work Officer Report for 2020/21 receives praise from Elected Members
Elected members of The Highland Council have commended the work being undertaken in challenging circumstances to protect and care for vulnerable children and adults, following the presentation of the Chief Social Work Officer Report (2020/21) last week, Friday 10 December.
The comprehensive report highlighted the delivery of services across all social work services – including children’s, justice, adult social work and social care – and provided an overview of the professional activity being undertaken within the region to carry out the delivery of statutory functions and responsibilities held by the local authority’s Chief Social Work Officer.
In particular, Members expressed praise for a number of improvements implemented by the Health and Social Care Service during 2019/20 to help boost foster carer numbers and provide more tailored support to individuals putting themselves forward for caring roles.
At its heart, these improvements have played a key role in speeding up the process of assessing and recruiting suitable carers. Members were advised of 10 foster carer approvals during the period 2020/21 and noted that this was a considerable increase on the previous year and a significant achievement against the backdrop and challenges of the pandemic with many staff having to work remotely from home.
A further area of success also highlighted within the report was the Placement Services Change Programme (PSCP), established in June 2018, with a core aim to actively return young people who had been placed in out of area (OOA) placements back to Highland.
Since June 2018, 53 young people have been enabled to return to Highland, with the aim of a better outcome for these young people and avoiding costs to the council of over £11M as compared with them remaining out of area for a further year. The report highlighted that this has been achieved through establishing alternative services, accommodation and resources to enable young people to remain as close as possible to their communities in Highland.
Chair of the Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee, Councillor Linda Munro, said: “The last 20 months have quite clearly demonstrated that no part of Highland has been left untouched by COVID-19 in one form or another. As Elected Members, many of us have been contacted by local people within our communities who, perhaps, traditionally would not have required our help or support and this quite clearly demonstrates that COVID-19 has floored many people.
“We recognise that this increase in demand for services and support across the greater Highland population has inevitably left those who were already vulnerable, more exposed to the challenges of the pandemic.”
Cllr Munro continued: “While we all have a shared history in the pandemic, we do not necessarily have a shared experience – we know that in times of crisis, family needs and concerns will be different across the board. Therefore, our priority now is on delivering services in a COVID-19 environment, with a particular focus on investing in locally-based services, which reflect the needs and requirements of our local communities.”
Cllr Munro concluded by saying: “I would like to formally acknowledge the commitment of staff within our Health and Social Care service who have worked tirelessly against a backdrop of unprecedented challenges and pressures – their dedication is quite remarkable and is to be commended.”