Newcastle City Council

Newcastle City Council (NCC) engaged with Xyla Health and social care (formerly ICS Assessment Services) in May 2018 to undertake a range of statutory duties across their localities. The purpose of the project was to progress over 1,000 cases of Child in Need (CIN), Child Protection (CP) and Looked After Children (LAC), in order to provide capacity and support to NCC’s teams. 

With a growing demand for services, a fast-paced front door and increasing pressure on long-term teams, NCC required a holistic solution to ensure their statutory responsibilities were met. 

ICS worked in two phases over an 18-month period. Our role was to deliver extra capacity within the Duty and Assessment function and the CIN, CP and LAC functions across the city, whilst NCC supported their own recruitment and retention. 

Key achievements due to an outcomes-driven service 

Over the 18 months of the project we provided 65 social workers, team managers and service managers for a fixed weekly fee, who were able to deliver the following outcomes: 

  • Over 65 social workers, team managers and service managers contributed to the completion of this project 
  • Fixed weekly fee based on the number of cases managed, with no changes to the service cost regardless of resource and service levels increases 
  • Over 1,200 cases managed throughout the programme 
  • 52% of all cases closed at assessment 
  • 98% of all assessments completed in less than 8 weeks 
  • 74% of all cases closed through CIN and CP programmes 
  • >8,000 statutory visits conducted; 95% within timescales 
  • KPIs monitoring related to statutory reporting, assessments, visits and placements for LAC and delivery to the NCC management on a monthly basis 
  • Project management, implementation, recruitment, retention and adherence to service levels throughout the life of the programme 
  • Full-time business support function (up to 3x staff members) to ensure adherence to assessment and key work timelines, completing all administrative duties 

Our Approach 

Xyla Health and social care was initially allocated with 450 Children’s cases. 

Following comprehensive project implementation, Xyla on-boarding and project implementation, one Duty team and four more Long-term teams were created. The five project teams consisted of a Team Manager (holding overall day-to-day responsibility for the project) and Qualified Social Workers, supported by a robust management structure and a team of project co-ordinators. 

The project teams came with a huge range of Children’s social work experience from working with local authorities across the country and delivered the extra capacity needed by working on complex cases to the agreed transfer points, ensuring consistent quality and timeliness in the outcomes for the children and their families. 

The Duty and Assessment team worked on a 6-week rolling duty rota, picking up 90 cases which were worked on the intervening weeks, having as a target that all cases would be progressed/stepped up/stepped down during that time, to allow the team to consistently take this quota of work every 6 weeks. 

The CIN/CP/LAC teams took work from across the city dealing with cases that progressed through the Duty and Assessment function. Our focus was on implementing care plans and progressing cases through court proceedings if required. 

In delivering this project, we worked closely alongside the Council’s existing teams, management and their multi-agency partners, to understand the current systems and processes in detail and to develop strong and effective partnerships with a goal to deliver improved outcomes for the children and their families. We addressed a number of key challenges, including: 

NCC’s improvement programme involved a large-scale drive for recruitment and retention within their own services to ensure they had a stable and effective workforce at the end of the 18-month partnership. 

Turnover of staffregionally needed to be managed, by holding the risk and the cases’ management with quality and consistency, giving NCC a peace of mind while in the middle of their internal recruitment processes. 

The NCC strategy and policy changedduring the assignment and we were able to adapt our project teams whilst working within a dynamic organisation. We implemented new ways of working, including new processes for LAC placements. We also adopted new KPIs which were fed back to NCC monthly to ensure that the Council was on track to meet its targets. 

We also employed a dedicated Business Support team that took the lead role in collating project management data and ensuring that the teams achieved high compliance across the KPIs’ range. 

Expert Social Work Delivery 

In order to ensure efficient and quality outcomes, we also:  

  • Provided cover to all cases with maximum caseloads – throughout the engagement, all cases were covered with Xyla resource and new cases were picked up within 1 working day 
  • Weekly case auditing and thematic, deep-dive case audits provided by management and cross-learning between NCC and Xyla
  • Fortnightly project governance meetings to address possible risks and issues. 

Concluding the project with Newcastle City Council, we prepared an end of project report, delivered to senior management with our observations and recommendations for further improvements within the local authority region, including: 

  • Current working practices including operating between partners such as internal legal teams and IROs 
  • Tackling capacity challenges 
  • Social work practice ensuring that consistent delivery of service is seen along the child’s