C4EO theme: Safeguarding

Emerging practice details

Improving effective supervision in safeguarding by mapping the journey of children in case auditing with case holders, Stockport

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Safeguarding
  • General resources

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

    Basic details

    Organisation submitting example

    Stockport Children and Young People Service

    Local authority/local area:

    Stockport Borough Council


    The context and rationale

    Background details to your example

    The introduction of a monthly audit process and Team Around the Child (TAC) Reflective Case Summaries, through which Team Managers routinely map the journey of children within Social Care, in discussion with the case holder within a reflective learning environment. The process has added immense value to our local understanding and evidence of social work practice, on a case level, practitioner level and whole Social Care Service level. The process is enshrined within a wider Social Care Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework. It is supported by a number of processes designed to complement the audit process and further develop local learning. These are notably, Social Care Thematic Reviews, Records Compliance audit, Work Shadowing Programme and a series of innovative Service User Engagement activities.

    Context and rationale
    The 2012 Ofsted Announced Inspection of Safeguarding and Looked After Children identified a gap in Stockport’s Social Care quality assurance systems:

    A framework for performance management within children’s social care is established which includes supervision and case file auditing. However more work is needed to ensure that team managers are fully engaged in the quality auditing process and to provide evidence that remedial action is being taken where this is identified within individual audits.

    In response to the inspection, together with Stockport Children's Social Care Service’s commitment to provide high quality social work practice, it was identified that the Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework for the Social Care service should be revised in line with national best practice.

    The framework supports the effective delivery of improvements to safeguarding and child protection practice in Stockport. The Introduction of the Stockport Journey of the Child Monthly Audit tool and TAC Reflective Case Summaries within a larger Social Care Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework can be found at

    The framework is driven by the following principles:
    - Child centered – We will follow the journey of the child through our services.
    - Outcome based – We will 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 – We will 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 – All quality assurance activity will be carried out in partnership with service users and professionals; from the student social workers to senior managers. Measuring quality is something done with, and by, service users and professionals rather than an exercise done to them. Everybody has a responsibility to quality assurance and everyone’s views and feedback will be incorporated into service improvement.
    - Consultative – We will use a consultative approach which will encourage an awareness of quality issues and ownership of the findings.
    - Transparent – We will 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 – We will always endeavour to:
    o respect participants privacy and confidentiality;
    o extend and develop our knowledge;
    o use public resources in the most effective way possible;
    o use the findings to create change, which leads to improved outcomes.

    Monthly Audits
    The monthly audit process was driven by the above principles, national best practice (in particular principles within the Munro Review) and feedback from Senior Managers, Team Managers and workers with regards to the value of the previous audit process and the quality of reflective practice within supervision. In addition, we designed the audit form to evidence compliance with the Ofsted Protection of Children Inspection.

    The Stockport Case File Audit Tool is found on pp 54-63 in the Stockport Social Care Service Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework 2012-13 and is available from the C4EO team at the NFER.

    Social work practice: Monthly case file audits must explore the following:
    - Effectiveness of assessment (see Q 2 in the case file audit tool).
    - Risk management (see Q 2 and throughout the case file audit tool).
    - Planning, intervention and review (see Q 3 – 4 in the case file audit tool).
    - Was the child and family helped? The effectiveness of help and protection that was offered to children and young people (see Q 6 in the case file audit tool).
    - Exit from the child protection system (see Q 3 - 4 in the case file audit tool and Common Process Quality Assurance Framework).
    - Extent and consistency of focus on the child or young person’s needs and best interests (see Q 5 in the case file audit tool and addressed throughout audit).
    - The child or young person’s experiences (see Q 5 in the case file audit and Student Social Worker Mapping Experiences exercise see Appendix 10 in the above framework).
    - Child and families diversity issues are incorporated into the intervention. Exploration of whether discrimination in service accessibility is apparent (addressed throughout tool).
    - How social workers work with other professionals. The quality and effectiveness of inter-agency working (addressed throughout tool).
    - The effectiveness of quality assurance and management oversight of practice and decision-making (see Qs 2 and 8 in the case file audit tool pp 54-63).

    TAC Reflective Case Summaries
    A TAC Reflective Case Summary is a periodic reflective exercise of a TAC case, completed by the social worker and Team Manager within supervision using a standard tool. The point at which social workers will be expected to complete a reflective case summary depends on the team they sit in. TAC cases are defined as cases that are within the high tier 3 Team around the Child process, led by Social Care.

    The auditing process within the TAC Reflective Case Summaries was developed to address a recognition that the high priority cases of Child Protection (CP) and Looked After Children (LAC) can eclipse much of the social workers’ and Team Managers’ attention within supervision. There is the risk that TAC cases do not receive the same degree of monitoring and external scrutiny, which could result in an oversight to safeguard potentially vulnerable children within these cases.

    TAC cases are not subject to independent scrutiny, or statutory performance measures. The review meetings are generally chaired by social workers who are also the lead practitioners.

    In addition, both the Stockport Council’s Safeguarding and Looked After Children inspection in February 2012, and an independent audit into TAC cases, have provided additional stimulus to the exercise.

    Objectives of TAC Reflective Case Summaries are to:
    • Ensure social workers are dedicating time to TAC cases and reflecting on practice within the case.
    • Allocate specific time in supervision to focus on TAC cases, identify concerns in practice, and ensure planning meets the child’s needs.
    • Provide managerial support, scrutiny and oversight to TAC cases and process.
    • Draw out data through the process of reflective supervision.
    • Consolidate reflective supervision practice.


    The practice

    Further details about the practice

    Monthly auditing
    All supervisory staff, Team Managers, Service Managers, the Head of Service and the Service Director of Safeguarding and Prevention, will undertake case audits.

    Team Manager’s audits are carried out in consultation with social workers who are expected to evidence good practice and their rationale relating to key decisions. This reflective audit will take place out of supervision at an agreed date/time.

    Where appropriate, the views of families may be sought by the Team Manager to inform the audit.
    • Team Managers will audit one case handled by a social worker they line manage each month.
    • Service Managers will moderate (re-audit) one case audited by Team Managers in their service each month.
    • Head of Service and the Service Director for Safeguarding and Prevention will moderate a sample of audits annually.

    Audits will be completed using the Stockport case audit tool.

    Team Managers Audit
    The process is:
    1. Cases are selected at random for each Team Manager. Cases are sent by the 1st of every month to each Team Manager. It is anticipated that these cases will primarily be those subject to CP/LAC plans, as the TAC reflective summaries should capture the TAC cases.
    2. Team Manager contacts the social worker and schedules a one-hour time slot with them. This is scheduled two weeks after notification to ensure that the social worker and Team Manager have sufficient time to prepare. Team Manager emails the ‘Social Worker Audit Information FAQ’ and the case file audit template to the social worker and advises them to read and prepare before the audit.
    3. Team Manager and social worker discuss how, if appropriate and practical, to contact the child and family within the review case to seek their views (see Appendix 5 in the above framework).
    4. Team Managers book a room for the consultation. They must have access to a computer and case management system throughout the consultation.
    5. Team Managers allocate a one-hour slot to prepare. The social worker should guide them through the audit during their discussion and evidence key information in the case file.
    6. The audit tool is completed in discussion with the social worker. This must include action planning.
    7. Team Managers allocate approximately an hour to reflect on the discussion, revisit the case file and draw together their concluding thoughts.
    8. The completed audit is placed on the child’s file. Actions feed into the social workers ‘to do list’ and next subsequent supervision sessions.
    9. Team Managers’ monitor all identified actions and discuss themes at their weekly Performance Management meeting and with social workers in supervision.

    Service Managers Audit
    1. Cases are selected at random for re-audit. Initial audits must have been completed at least a month prior to the re-audit to facilitate Service Managers’ assessment of progress on actions identified, and no longer than two months since being audited to safeguard against drift.
    2. Service Manager informs the Team Manager and social worker that their case will be re-audited.
    3. Service Managers allocate two hours to read through the initial audit and relevant case notes and a further hour to complete the audit. It is at the Service Manager’s discretion as to whether they wish to complete the re-audit in consultation with the relevant Team Manager or social worker.
    4. Audit and additional actions are shared with the Team Manager and social worker. Actions identified are assigned to the social worker’s and Team Manager’s ‘to do list’ and visited at the Team Manager’s next supervision session.
    5. Completed audits are placed on the child’s file.
    6. Service Manager monitors identified actions and reports on any themes at their weekly Performance Management meeting.

    Head of Service/Service Director Audit
    1. Head of Service/Service Director will moderate a selection of cases annually.
    2. Process follows points 1 – 6 detailed above.

    TAC Reflective Case Summary
    Consideration of the completion of a TAC reflective case summary sits as a running item on the agenda for each supervision session. Team Manager’s must record on the supervision notes that this was considered and the decision whether to/or not to carry out a reflective case summary. Therefore a TAC reflective case summary does not need to be completed for each worker or each supervision session if the Team Managers’ state why this is not necessary.

    A TAC reflective case summary is completed on each TAC case held by a team if one hasn't been completed for ten weeks (short-term team) or six months (long-term team). A summary can be completed earlier if a Team Manager decides it is required.
    • Case is at a juncture (step up/step down).
    • Possible drift – case is held by the social worker with little activity carried out.
    • Issues / difficulties identified with the case.
    • Newly qualified social worker / inexperienced Social Worker holding the case.

    Team Managers are obligated to ensure the notes from the TAC Reflective Case Summary are recorded on the Tribal system in the correct form. This can be achieved by the worker typing them, TM typing them in or admin copy and pasting from their supervision notes into the tool. Admin has full access to all audit forms. It is TMs responsibility to track and ensure admin have added the TAC Reflective Summaries to the case. At the end of each month, Team Managers must send the audit administrator a list of completed summaries.

    Analysis and Reporting
    Due to the development of the process, an independent contractor analysed and developed the first audit analysis report. The service is developing a process whereby identified quality assurance leads from the Service Manager and Team Manager levels will complete the analysis of audits and the themes from these will be pulled together in a quarterly report.

    Reports feed into appropriate forums such as the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board and Senior Management meetings. Reports, accompanied by summaries, are shared with staff and discussed at Service Development Seminars.


    Achievements so far

    Further details on your achievements

    The Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework ensures all levels of Social Care staff actively participate in quality assurance activity. It is now understood that quality assurance is everyone’s business, from the Head of Service to Student Social Workers. This has shifted the culture of quality assurance from being identified as a high-level management exercise, to a focus on it being an exercise used to develop services and make a positive difference.

    The inclusion of all Social Care staff in auditing has particularly been very well received. Social workers feel as though they are a part of a ‘larger system’ and that the work they are doing is being recognised. Acting as auditors themselves has also been recognised as a particularly rich learning opportunity. The process of peers exchanging good practice through audit reports has been extremely well received and perceived as valuable.

    As the process has been developed in collaboration with Team Managers and Service Managers, there is widespread ‘buy-in’ and ownership of the process from within Social Care.

    The process was introduced at a time when Team Managers were being asked to participate in an unprecedented number of activities. Within a matter of five months, they were asked to introduce the new audit processes into their normal work-streams, participate in the Thematic Review, carry out a Records Compliance audit with case holders on every case currently open to their team, participate in the development of service user activities, attend new fortnightly Performance Management meetings where they are expected to answer questions on their team caseloads, participate in the LGA Peer Review, the Service introduced a whole new case management system and some Team Managers and Service Managers participated in multi-agency quality assurance activity. In the light of this, the Service has done a tremendous job in introducing these audit processes successfully and balancing these multiple pressures. This is testament to the value extracted from the audit processes, which has ensured continued ‘buy in’ and persistence by Team Managers and Service Managers at times of pressure.

    The re-design of the local audit processes to reflective discussions focussed on the journey of the child has greatly enhanced local evidence of positive (or lack of) difference workers are making to the lives of children and their families. As well as monitoring compliance, the processes have provided rich qualitative data on the quality of practice, key barriers and innovative practice, which would have been missed within an audit wholly focused on recording and compliance. This has provided Stockport with a mechanism through which individual workers can be congratulated on good practice and this has been recognised as an equally valuable process as trouble shooting poor practice. Overall, we have been able to extract valuable information and a balanced assessment of local social work practice.

    The process has also extracted clear gaps in practice and provided the opportunity to explore reasons behind poor practice (i.e. due to individual social worker practice or common barriers in the system) hence improving proportional response to gaps. An action planning process has been put in place, supported by the re-audit process through which actions are monitored. Action planning and learning are closely linked to individual supervision and informs the workers practice in other cases. There is a clear understanding in the service that poor practice is wholly unacceptable and will be tracked with greater rigour through these quality assurance processes.

    The processes have also gone some way to improving staff morale. Many workers have commented that they often find it difficult to ascertain what positive difference they are making as they feel as though they are hitting a brick wall dealing with resistance and crisis after crisis. There has been feedback that within a number of audits, there is often not sufficient time in the supervision period to review cases in detail. This is because much of that time is used to discuss those cases where there are some immediate difficulties that require additional guidance/direction.

    The new audit process has provided workers and Team Managers the opportunity to reflect on one case within an honest learning environment in which workers can step back from working in a case, to reflect on how they are making a positive difference, and if required, what they need to do to steer the child and family towards better outcomes. This has often led to Team Managers and workers reflecting on what they could have done at different junctions of the case to improve the journey for families and effect change positively. Workers have also commented that they find a reflection on the volume of positive work that they have engaged in with the family of a case provides them with a new lease of motivation to persist in supporting the family with a clear direction of travel. They have commented that they would like the opportunity to participate in the exercise more frequently, however capacity issues prevent this. In response, the service is considering the introduction to group reflective sessions.

    • Auditors and workers find great value in the process. The process has been embraced as an honest and rich learning experience. Managers are able to provide the worker with direction, support and wider learning about the way they practice. This will have a positive effect on the quality of work produced, which will inherently improve outcomes for the children and families we work with.
    • Most auditors record the pertinent points to their conversation with the worker. This provides an excellent source of evidence relating to the quality of practice in the service. The recording of the conversation, as well as actually carrying out the conversation is a critical aspect of the success of this process. A third party reader/re-auditor should gain a good sense of the child and their family, who they are, what the key issues are and how the social worker is working with the child, family and other professionals to drive through positive change/barriers to practice.
    • The audits explore the quality of recording, statutory compliance and the incorporation of (and lack of) research and theory into practice. Social workers are encouraged to explore how they have incorporated theory into practice; something many of them take for granted within their everyday practice. Team Managers have encouraged workers to reflect on the incorporation of theory into case records.
    • Auditors and workers explore the quality of relationships with partners and challenges to multi-agency working. The findings from these discussions have fed into wider discussion forums and contributed to the development of other services, such as the Stockport Early Help and Prevention Service.
    • Auditors have used the process to provide a practical form of direct feedback both specifically regarding the case progress and the performance of the practitioner. This includes praise as well as the discussion of areas for development. Many workers have commented that they would like the opportunity to participate in the exercise more frequently, however capacity issues prevent this.

    Areas for Development
    • Some auditors have stated that they are uncomfortable with the process of grading or are unsure of how to benchmark grades. As a result, there are gaps in the grading process. The grade levels are required for the service to decipher the quality of practice across the whole service. Re-audits have assisted some auditors with the issue of benchmarking. Some auditors have graded without providing justification on the audit tool, for example, why the social worker’s practice is outstanding; and what practice demonstrates the worker has practiced above and beyond statutory practice.
    • Where appropriate, Team Managers were asked to seek the views of families to inform the audit. This has only been achieved by a small group of Team Managers. Where views have been sought, this has added great value to the audit and the service will work to encourage Managers to do this. Thematic audits will also include a discussion with service users.
    • Recording of actions differ between auditors, as some have not used the action boxes. Re-auditors find it difficult to monitor the quality of audit and subsequent monitoring of actions without clear actions.
    • We are currently developing a process which puts Social Care Team Managers and Service Managers at the heart of the analysis of audits and practice themes.
    • Some auditors are better at submitting audits by the required deadline, then others. Extra capacity to support the audit process has also supported submission, as auditors have been chased for their audits. This additional capacity will no long be available in 2013. All Team Managers are obliged to submit monthly audits. Audits for a given month should be submitted within that month, not the middle of the next month. Team Managers must become more systematic about incorporating audits into their monthly work streams.
    • Some Service Managers re-audits have not been submitted within timeframes. This undermines the monitoring of actions and quality of management oversight.
    • Further work is required to embed the systematic completion of TAC Reflective Case Summaries. At the moment Team Managers are completing summaries when they feel a case requires one (for example, with newly qualified staff, difficulty is incurred with the case). Whilst it is appropriate to use the tool for such instances, Team Managers must introduce a systematic process whereby a TAC Reflective Summary is completed on all TAC cases at least at some point of its life within their team. This is being enforced systematically as from 1stFebruary 2013.
    • Measures for intended outcomes resulting from the framework are still in their infancy. However, at a child level, clear actions are identified within individual audits that are integrated into our new recording system which enables actions/tasks (known as ‘to-dos’) to pull through to social workers ‘to do’ list. These are reviewed by Team Managers and a dip sample is re-audited.
    • The wider Quality Assurance activity contributes to our quarterly joined up action planning process delivering the learning and action identified to improve practice and outcomes for children. This is reported into the Service Improvement Board and the Quality Assurance sub-group of the Safeguarding board.
    • We are keen to ensure continuous learning from feedback and treat children and families as partners in shaping and developing our services and the delivery of these.

    The Stockport Social Care Quality Assurance Quarterly Report (August 2012 – November 2012) is available from the C4EO team at the NFER.



    Other details

    As previously stated, the audit processes were introduced along with a number of other new demands placed on Team Managers and Service Managers. This has limited the pace to which we could enforce all the processes, as demonstrated with the TAC Reflective Case Summaries.

    See also areas for development in question 3 in the Case File Audit Tool in the framework

    Top five tips
    • All audit activity must be valuable and a rich learning experience for both the auditor and case holder. This will ultimately create the best outcomes of children.
    • Change must come from within: Audit processes must be developed in collaboration with staff. This helps bestow a sense of ownership towards processes which will help them endure times of multiple pressure.
    • Collaboration with case holder provides a rich learning opportunity and enhances local learning tremendously
    • The inclusion of feedback from children and families into auditing, where appropriate, provides tremendous value to the process.
    • Provide positive feedback and share good practice. This is as valuable as identifying areas for development.

    Core leadership behaviours
    The following eight core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL. Those that apply to this example have been emboldened.

    i. openness to possibilities

    ii. the ability to collaborate

    iii. demonstrating a belief in team and people

    iv. personal resilience and tenacity

    v. the ability to create and sustain commitment across a system

    vi. focusing on results

    vii. the ability to simplify

    viii. the ability to learn continuously.

    Back to resources


    Loading...Please Wait