THE numbers of looked-after children and children at risk of significant harm are continuing to come down in Swansea.
There are 515 looked-after children in the county, according to the latest figures, and 257 on the child protection register.
Dave Howes, Swansea’s director of social services, told a council scrutiny panel that this was bucking the trend compared to many other authority areas in Wales and the UK.
The number of children in need of care and support has risen though, and currently stands at 557.
The panel heard that long-standing plans to invest in prevention and early help had been implemented and were bearing fruit.
“Overall I’m thinking this is a real endorsement of our workforce,” said Mr Howes, who also paid tribute to the leadership team.
The one area of concern, he said, was the small proportion of looked-after children who ended up in “more institutionalised forms of care”, although he said the numbers might be starting to tail off.
The panel heard that staff were using a new computer system which was affecting the way data was being recorded and resulting in social workers spending less time on face-to-face meetings with children and families as normal.
Mr Howes said the new system was being used nationally and that there were issues around its performance, which were being picked up.
“It’s clearly not as smooth as would have liked it to be,” he said of the system switch.
“It’s causing a burden to social workers and other staff that we could do without.”
But Mr Howes said he felt assured that the service wasn’t missing anything “dreadful” on the ground.
His safeguarding officer colleague, Damian Rees, took the panel through all the latest figures, which included 28% of the young people on the child protection register having previously been on it.
Cllr Paxton Hood-Williams said this looked quite a high proportion. Mr Rees said these young people could have been on it at any point in their lifetime, rather than the last 12 or 18 months, but added he would want the percentage to be as low as possible.
Mr Rees also said there were two young people currently on remand, with one due to be sentenced in court this month.
Cllr Susan Jones said she knew of a case in which a pair of children had had five or six social workers since last November.
Mr Rees said he would look into this, adding that there had been difficulties around staffing.
“Obviously we would want to avoid children moving from social worker to social worker in an unnecessary way,” he said.
Cllr Hood-Williams, the panel’s convenor, said: “The overall picture, I think, it’s a credit to the department.”