“STAFF morale is improving” and social services is well on its improvement journey according to senior staff.

But there are significant financial problems still to address

At Powys County Counil’s (PCC) Full Council meeting on Thursday, October 10, social services corporate director (adults and children) Ali Bulman said that the last year had been one of “improvement and recovery”.

She spoke during a section discussing PCC’s annual performance report.

“You have heard a lot about and improvement journey, but I think it’s best to say that this last year has been about improvement and recovery,” said Ms Bulman.

Ms Bulman added: “if you look over the last few years both children’s and adult services have had a difficult time.

“In May, 2018, the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) issued a report on Adult Social Care and highlighted the serious concerns about the service.

“It prompted us to quickly develop our improvement plan  for Adult Social Care, it was quite a task and it was also on the back of the Children’s Service report, six months previously.

“The service rightly remains under scrutiny with regular visits by CIW, and also that further inspections of Children’s (Service) highlighted some of the significant improvements, but also highlighted other areas that remain a serious concern.”

She added that the scrutiny provide by group leader, committees and the Improvement and Assurance Board was helping.

She pointed went on to pick out some success the service had enjoyed.

In January 2019, 100 per-cent of safeguarding inquiries about adult social care were completed within statutory time scales.

That compared with 60 per-cent in January 2018.

Complaints dropped from 18 during the last quarter of 2017/18 to four in 2018/19 and compliments went up from 15 to 33.

Ms Bulman added: “One of our main challenges remains retention and recruitment of staff and a lot of work is going in to retaining what we have got.

“At recent staff events morale feels much better.”

“The budget in children’s services remains volatile and we know there has been an overspend in the last year.

“We have made some progress on our aspirational targets this year and have aspirational targets for the next three years.

“I have to emphasise that child safety is paramount in everything we do.

“If there are children at significant risk of harm and we need to make a decision to bring them in to the care of the local authority, we will make it.

“The child will always come first.”

In October 2017, Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW), produced a damning inspection report into PCC Children’s Services department, which revealed missed opportunities to safeguard children, poor risk assessment and serious performance issues with front line services.

The Improvement and Assurance Panel was set up to as a reaction to the report.

In the wake of the critical report, a new director of Social Services, Ali Bulman, and a head of Children’s Services, Jan Coles, were appointed.