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5.12.5 Quality Assurance and Learning Framework

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter fully describes the quality assurance process, procedure and schedule, as well as detailing the expectations of staff throughout the services involved. Emphasis is placed on a learning culture within the organisation and the audit exemplars give clear expectations for practitioners and managers in terms of good practice guidance that should be reflected in children’s case files.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Practice Standards

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in July 2017 to emphasise that auditors should consider the impact and outcome of the planned interventions (see Section 4, Assessing and Reviewing Practice). Note also that Appendix 3: Diagram of Audit Pathway has been amended.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Our Approach to Quality Assurance
  3. Practice Standards
  4. Assessing and Reviewing Practice
  5. Qualitative Thematic Practice Reviews
  6. Learning and Changing
  7. Evidence of Learning
  8. How does this Quality Assurance Framework Link to Wider Assurance of Practice?
  9. Supporting the Quality Assurance and Learning Framework
  10. Early Help Audit Process
  11. MASH Audit Process
  12. Compliance

    Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities for all Staff and Managers in the System

    Appendix 2: Summary of Children's Services Quality Assurance / Audit Activity October 16 - October 17

    Appendix 3: Diagram of Audit Pathway

    Appendix 4: Audit Exemplar

    Appendix 5: Audit Tools


1. Introduction

What is the Quality Assurance and Learning Framework?

The Quality Assurance and Learning Framework for Children's Services within Knowsley includes all activity undertaken to ensure work is carried out to the highest quality. It aims to improve our understanding of whether we are supporting the right children, in the right way, at the right time, and whether we are making a difference. The Framework relates to priorities within the DfE Improvement Plan and is designed to help us in a journey of continuous self-assessment and improvement:

improvement plan

The table at Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities for all Staff and Managers in the System outlines the roles and responsibilities of all staff and managers within the Quality Assurance system in Knowsley.


2. Our Approach to Quality Assurance

  • Child Centred – Our ambition is to follow the journey of the child through our services;
  • Outcome Based and Qualitative – Our ambition is to continually seek to improve performance and demonstrate the impact of help for children and their families in improving their outcomes. It is not enough to carry out quality assurance activity; the findings from all activity will drive service improvement and create better outcomes for our clients and workforce;
  • Fair – Our ambition is to take equality and diversity issues into account when developing and undertaking quality assurance activity. We will use the results to promote equality of access;
  • Participative – Our quality assurance activity is focussed on a ‘working together’ approach. Activity is carried out in partnership with children and families along with professionals; measuring quality relies on the recognition of meaningful participation and engagement i.e. a doing with instead of a doing to approach. Everybody within the service has a responsibility to quality assure their everyday practice by incorporating views, and general feedback in to our future service improvements;
  • Consultative – Our ambition is to use a consultative approach which will encourage an awareness of quality issues and ownership of the findings;
  • Transparent – Our ambition is to deliver clear messages about the purpose of the quality assurance and how it benefits the organisation and individuals to encourage openness and willingness to participate;
  • Ethical – Our ambition is to always endeavour to: Respect participants privacy and confidentiality:
    • Extend and develop our knowledge;
    • Use public resources in the most effective way possible;
    • Use the findings to create change, which leads to improved outcomes.

Quality assurance within Social Care will have a clear emphasis on the measurements of outcomes as well as a measurement of outputs. An outcome is “a condition of well-being for children, adults, families or communities.” For instance:

  • Children are safe;
  • Children are healthy;
  • Children are succeeding in school.

Outputs and productivity measures are concerned with data which give an indication of the impact the service has had for children and their families, for instance, looking at the number of social work assessments completed may give us a view of whether assessments are completed within timescales but not the quality of those assessments. Outcomes are concerned with whether anyone is better off and if the identified needs have been met.

The combination of outcome and output data can assist understanding the impact of services.


3. Practice Standards

All staff employed by Knowsley Children’s Services, or providing services on behalf of the Council, are held accountable for making sure that practice standards are met at all times. Practice standards are informed by statutory guidance and regulation. They are based on evidence about the elements of practice which are most likely to lead to good quality services and positive outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Standards of conduct of all social work staff are set by The British Association of Social Workers - Professional Capabilities Framework, as well as the Health and Care Professions Council Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics.

Performance is also measured against internally and externally reported performance indicators that identify areas of strength and areas requiring improvement. These indicators are available on the Department for Education website. Managers use the performance data for monitoring and evaluating the performance of teams and team members.

Involving children in Assessments, Care Plans and Children Looked After Reviews should be embedded in practice, irrespective of the level of need within the family. From CAF, to CIN, to Child Protection Plans, to children in care and care leavers, the child’s own wishes, views and involvement in decisions that affect them is central.

Case File Audits are an intrinsic part of the quality assurance process and examine social care practice against 10 social care practice standards:

  • Standard 1 - All children will have an assessment which reflects a clear picture of the child’s experience and wishes and feelings;
  • Standard 2 - All children will have a plan which explains their needs, personal views, planned outcomes and agreed actions;
  • Standard 3 - All assessments, plans and interventions will reflect an understanding of the wishes, feelings and needs of parents and carers, and will be focused on enabling them to fulfil their responsibilities to their children;
  • Standard 4 - All assessments, plans and interventions will be based on a clear analysis of all the information researched and made available about the child;
  • Standard 5 - As far as age and understanding allows, children will be spoken to alone and worked with by professionals who have the tools and training to directly engage children;
  • Standard 6 - Case records will have an up to date Chronology of significant events, an accurate Genogram and a case summary;
  • Standard 7 - Case recording will be up to date and will reflect the purpose of interventions and contacts;
  • Standard 8 - Every case file will include a relevant risk assessment on a child and will include a contingency plan;
  • Standard 9 - Every case will contain evidence of management oversight and regular supervision that is reflective in nature;
  • Standard 10 - Every case will contain evidence of management oversight ensuring that tasks have been completed to the required quality standard.


4. Assessing and Reviewing Practice

A Quality Audit Exemplar has been developed to cover the above standards. The exemplar and guidance can be found in Appendix 3: Diagram of Audit Pathway.

Each month, the cases to be audited are selected randomly by a Quality Assurance Administrator who liaises with the Quality Assurance and Audit Lead, according to the thematic schedule agreed by the Operational Leadership Team.

See Appendix 2: Summary of Children's Services Quality Assurance / Audit Activity October 16 - October 17.

Each management tier within Children’s Social Care will be asked to audit 1 case a month. Team Managers will audit cases from teams they are not directly responsible for.

The audit tool s embedded within ICS and includes a judgement about the quality of work based on Ofsted grades and priority weighted actions required to address deficiencies. The completion of actions is monitored by the Team Manager and QA & Audit Lead Completed audits are shared with the appropriate Managers and Social Worker’s and remain on the child’s electronic ICS file.

As noted in the previous sections Quality Assurance is about outcomes and the impact of our work as well as about processes and compliance to practice standards. Therefore when auditing cases it is important that auditors consider the impact of work undertaken on outcomes for the child. Audit should consider what the social worker set out to achieve and the impact that this had.

Outstanding Outcomes are the result of adherence to practice standards coupled with positive impacts for the child.

outstanding outcomes

A moderation exercise takes place monthly by the QA & Audit Lead to consider all audits completed to ensure a consistent benchmark is maintained. Benchmarking is also supported by joint auditing of cases which takes place twice a year. Auditors work together on a single audit and discuss what it is they consider when undertaking audit. This process helps to ensure consistent audit practice across the team of auditors.

A report is completed by the moderator of the audit findings from each monthly audit, the actions that are required and the learning. The report is circulated within Children’s Social Care.


5. Qualitative Thematic Practice Reviews

In addition to the monthly operational audits, a qualitative thematic practice review takes place every 3 months as part of an annual programme where specific themes will be audited. These themes are agreed by the Head of Service Team led by the Executive Assistant Director of Children’s Services. Each review will be led by the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit with input from the Quality Assurance and Audit Lead.

The Quality Assurance and Audit Lead co-ordinates each review, arranging the date, venue, case selection, audit tool and confirming membership of each group. A minimum of 12 cases should be reviewed at each session over a 1 or 2 day period.

The process includes 3 key parts:

  1. Case Review: In pairs, auditors review case files using the appropriate documentation;
  2. SW Discussion: Auditors meet with the SW wherever possible, discussing each case using the agreed question framework, there is also a feedback session with all Social Workers and Managers;
  3. Family conversation: Auditors engage directly with both the child and family/carer, gaining their views on the Department’s involvement and ideas for further improvements (where possible and appropriate, and if the family/carer/child is available and wishes to participate).

This approach facilitates a process in which the journey of the child is emphasised in discussion with the case holder, within a reflective environment. The approach focuses on outcomes as well as the quality of record keeping. It helps Knowsley celebrate good practice as well as identify gaps and learning. In order to ensure this is achieved, the case holder is given adequate notice that their attendance is required.

Contacting families who are working with Children’s Social Care is a key part of the quality assurance framework. During themed practice reviews families, carers and young people concerned whose cases are being reviewed should be contacted where appropriate and their views obtained where possible. Any feedback offered on future service developments and delivery is recorded, with the family informed in writing of action taken as a result of their feedback.

The Safeguarding Unit leads each review to ensure independent and robust challenge and scrutiny throughout the process. The QA and Audit Lead contributes to writing the final report with its findings and recommendations, with the Unit taking responsibility for ensuring a clear analysis of the findings and endorsing the report. Any safeguarding issues are escalated immediately to the relevant Senior Manager should they arise. The QA and Audit Lead also writes a SMART action plan based on the findings of each review and the recommendations are added to the rolling action plan and monitored through the HofS meetings.

Membership of each review is shared across Children’s’ Services at every level and attendance at all levels is essential to embedding a culture of practice learning and review in the Department.

Once the review is completed, copies of the individual audit document are sent to the worker and line manager for identified tasks to be completed. It is the responsibility of the line manager to sign the document confirming that all identified tasks have been completed according to timescales. Once complete, the audit is placed on the child’s electronic file and a copy of the document sent to the QA Officer.

Each thematic review report is examined by the Departmental Management Meeting. From here it is presented to the Safeguarding Board Executive where the Board will hold the Department and its partners to account regarding the findings and actions taken to improve practice; this may include Practice Improvement Workshops, Training, System Changes, and amendments to Guidance and Procedures.

To support thematic audits and management oversight of cases a variety of audit tools are being developed. These can be found in Appendix 5: Audit Tools.

The appendix contains dip sampling tools to aid management oversight of case files. One tool assists in case review of CIN, CP and CLA cases. The other supports management oversight of Fostering cases.

Also contained within the appendix is a tool to support audit of S.47 enquiries. Bespoke audit tools will be developed as part of the Review of the Quality Assurance and Audit Framework planned for May 2017.


6. Learning and Changing

It is imperative that learning from each quality assurance activity is shared with the right people and used meaningfully to change practice and improve outcomes for children, families and employees. Learning should make evidenced links to the following areas:

  • Supervision;
  • Training;
  • Complaints and compliments;
  • Workforce planning and development;
  • Commissioning;
  • Service Plans and Team Plans;
  • KSCB and Children’s Trust priorities and Business Plans.

An evaluative report on outcomes identified in the monthly operational audit is produced by the QAU. Every month the QA and Audit Lead’ report gives an cumulative picture of a) how many audits have been completed per month per service, b) of what nature (inadequate, requires improvement, good or outstanding), progress made with completing actions and any examples of outstanding practice. The QAU will also produce a report based on the outcome of the Quarterly Audits for dissemination through planned staff development workshops.

Cases celebrated by the Operational Leadership Team as outstanding practice will be fed back into training.

The diagram below shows the audit feedback loop, from audit through to learning and practice improvement.

The development of the process and tools to quality assure the quality of supervision is now in place and the observation of practice across Children’s Social Care is underway.

Audit Feedback Loop


7. Evidence of Learning

The Quality Assurance and Learning Framework feedback loop includes the expectation that workforce development plans, service plans and personal development plans evidence that they are shaped by the learning from Social Care audits.

Registration of social work staff with the Health and Care Professions Council is contingent upon evidence of minimum learning requirements over a three year period. It requires managers to provide oversight to and sign off of the evidence of learning for each qualified Social Worker for whom they are responsible.

Supervision records are used to demonstrate social workers’ and managers’ reflections on the progress of cases and the quality of decision making. Children’s Social Care has a supervision policy that challenges practitioners to reflect critically on their cases and fosters an inquisitive approach to social work.

All children’s service staff have an annual staff appraisal. The appraisal takes the aims and priorities set out in the Council Strategy and Service Plans, and translates them into objectives and targets for individual staff members. It provides the opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses in staff performance and provides a vehicle to address any concerns.


8. How does this Quality Assurance and Learning Framework Link to Wider Assurance of Practice?                                          

The welfare of children and young people is everybody’s business. No service can or should operate in isolation. For this reason the Quality Assurance and Learning Framework should be read and understood in conjunction with the Knowsley Safeguarding Children Board (KSCB) Multi-Agency Audit Framework. Practitioners working for the Council are frequently and regularly involved in this activity.

During the course of undertaking quality assurance activity within Children’s Social Care, practice and process issues that are identified in relation to other services or agencies will be routinely escalated to the relevant service and/or agency to help inform learning and improvement.


9. Supporting the Quality Assurance and Learning Framework

The Framework is supported by the following teams working to the Assistant Executive Director safeguarding and Quality Assurance. Their purpose is to support and drive up standards through consultation, independent challenge and feedback:

  • The Child Protection Conference Team co-ordinates Child Protection Conferences and also provide quality assurance through aggregated findings from a Standards Checklist completed for each Conference;
  • The Independent Reviewing Team reviews progress against Looked After Children Care Plans and also provides quality assurance feedback through a Standards Checklist;
  • The Participation Worker works to embed the Knowsley Participation standards framework specific to Children's Services which includes up to 20 Young Ambassadors for Vulnerable Children and Young People who take part in quality assurance activity such as mystery shopping, service evaluations, as well as training activity where we can learn and reflect on the impact of services;
  • The Knowsley Safeguarding Children Board (KSCB) Business Unit supports all quality assurance audit and training arranged through the Safeguarding Board.


10. Early Help Audit Process

The Early Help Service provides integrated support to children, young people and their families. The key objective of the service is to offer practical advice, support and direct case work to prevent issues escalating and requiring statutory intervention.

Providing Early Help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later. Early Help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child’s life, from the foundation through to teenage years.

A Quality audit tool has been developed within Early Help to build upon the audit process and schedule in place within Children’s Social Care.

Each month the Managers within Early help undertake a deep dive audit on one case which has been randomly selected from a team they are not directly responsible for. A reflective interview takes place during the audit with the allocated worker and were possible children and families views should be obtained and the information gained from this incorporated within the audit.

The audit tool requires a judgement about the quality of work within each section based on the Ofsted grade descriptions:

  • Outstanding - Exceedingly good, sustaining improvement, an exceptional difference;
  • Good - Widespread and common good practice which demonstrably leads to improved outcomes;
  • Requires Improvement - Practice with not enough characteristic of good;
  • Inadequate - Widespread or serious concern-child at risk of being harmed, no improved outcomes.

Audits are undertaken to identify what we are doing well and areas for development. They should therefore help us to consider the impact and outcomes of the work undertaken with children and families. All sections of the audit tool should be completed and if a section is graded inadequate or requires improvement, corrective actions must be identified with clear timescales for completion which should be tracked by the manager of the case holding worker. Completed audits are to be discussed within supervision sessions between the appropriate manager and allocated worker.

A moderation exercise takes place monthly to moderate all audits completed and ensure a consistent benchmark is maintained.

A summary report with an action plan (when required) will be completed following the completion of audits by The Early Help Service with the support of the moderator and Business Support team to ensure learning is disseminated to relevant agencies. The findings within the Early Help audit report will be incorporated within the main CSC audit monthly learning report.

Within Early Help the audit tool is a word document, the completed document should be placed on the child’s EHM file. The audit tool is to be embedded within ICS EHM system at an appropriate time in the near future.

It is anticipated that the audit schedule within Early Help will develop further to include quarterly thematic audit that will be a joint team approach with children’s social care whereby the audit team will focus on a specific theme which will be agreed by the Assistant Director of Quality Assurance.


11. MASH Audit Process

The Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) (see Knowsley MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) (Knowsley Safeguarding Children Board Procedures)) provides a first point of contact for Children’s Social Care (CSC) enabling members of the public and professionals to raise concerns about the welfare of children. This may include children identified as potentially being in need of support or at risk of suffering abuse. The MASH is part of the Knowsley Children and Families Service.

MASH will undertake audits in line with the Quality Assurance and Learning Framework that has been in place for Children’s Social Care since 2014.

Audits will be co-ordinated by the Head of Service for MASH with the support of the Business Support Team. Auditors will include professionals from the key MASH agencies (Children’s Social Care, Early Help, Police) and other agencies / teams where possible, EG Health and EDT.

A minimum of 3 audit’s a month will be completed by each of the three key MASH agencies (CSC/EH/Police), they will have 15 working days to complete the audit.

The Ofsted grading of Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate will be used to grade the various sections of the audit tool which include; quality of contact, the MASH episode and contact management.

Where appropriate a reflective interview should take place with the MASH worker for the audit and other related professionals, referrers or family members.

A random selection of the audits will be moderated by the QA and Audit Lead from the Quality Assurance Unit.

A summary report with an action plan (when required) will be completed following the completion of audits by the Head of Service with the support of the moderator and Business Support team to ensure learning is disseminated to relevant agencies and the MASH Governance Board. The findings within the MASH audit report will be incorporated within the main CSC audit monthly learning report.

The audit tool for MASH is currently a word document, however, it is envisaged this will be embedded within the EHM / ICS system at some point in the future.

It is anticipated that the audit schedule within MASH will develop further to include quarterly thematic audits.


12. Compliance

The success of service delivery in Knowsley Children’s Social Care is measured by improving the outcomes for children and their families, achieving agreed targets and raising standards. It will need the commitment and support of all managers and their teams to ensure that quality assurance activity is embedded with a clear feedback and remedial action process, and reported to the relevant bodies within specified timescales.


Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities for all Staff and Managers in the System

Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities for all Staff and Managers in the System


Appendix 2: Summary of Children's Services Quality Assurance / Audit Activity October 16 - October 17

Appendix 2: Summary of Children's Services Quality Assurance / Audit Activity October 16 - October 17


Appendix 3: Diagram of Audit Pathway

Appendix 3: Diagram of Audit Pathway


Appendix 4: Audit Exemplar

Appendix 4: Audit Exemplar


Appendix 5: Audit Tools

End