Warning that Moray social work staff may continue to struggle

 SOCIAL WORK STAFF at Moray Council may struggle to meet the improvement demands placed on them by a recent adverse Care Inspectorate report.

That was the damning verdict delivered to councillors yesterday at a special meeting of the Council held after it was demanded by the SNP opposition group to discuss the issue.

Moray’s director of education and social care, Laurence Findlay, warned councillors that staff had been pushed to their limits already – and were struggling just to keep services running.

Mr Findlay was updating councillors on the situation following the report that criticised care service agencies in Moray – at the time, Council Convener Alan Wright assured the public that note had been taken of the deficiencies highlighted in the report and action was already being taken to address them.

However, Mr Findlay said that the main issue was one of capacity – pointing out that the Council’s quality improvement team was now half the size it had been previously and adding “It is also being under-staffed to put people back into schools to cover vacancies”.

Painting a bleak picture, he added: “It is not going to get better any time soon – it is going to be a real challenge. The teams are really going to have to prioritise what they are doing.”

He indicated that courage will need to be shown by chief officers if the current culture was to change: “We have got groups for everything now – there are hundreds of them. It is going to take courage from the chief officers to say ‘We’re not going to do that in Moray, these are our priorities’.

“That will take a big shift in culture – but when resources are as tight as they are, it is about honing down to what the essentials are, delivering them and delivering them well.”

At the meeting Councillor George Alexander commented: “A lot of our staff are working flat-out, we depend on a lot of goodwill from these staff. Some people would tell us that we should cut out some of the management and some departments. If we did that then social work would be in real trouble.

“I am just concerned that it is going to be very difficult to make progress unless we get more funding from somewhere.”

SNP councillor Patsy Gowans said that there appeared to be a lot of “cultural changes” required to address the issues. She added: “Councillor Cresswell and I sit on Adult Protection and I asked about five years ago for representation from the Third Sector to be present at these meetings.

“I also thought that it was important that representation from the Care Inspectorate [was present] at these meeting too. Although the scrutinise us, sometimes working with your auditors [can help] achieve the desired outcome.”

Chairman of the children and young people’s services committee, said that failings of staff should not be overlooked: “I believe it is time for the [community planning] partnership to take a long, hard look at themselves, snap out of complacency and move on from paying lip-service to planning.”

Draft Plan Published

Moray Council yesterday published their draft plan, drawn up by the Chief Officers’ Group, on how they will deal with children’s services over the next three years.  Anyone wishing to comment on the contents of the plan can do so online now.