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5.2.6 Staying Safe Services Quality Assurance Framework


In November 2021, new Appendix 1: Quality of Practice Audit Tool was added.

Note: This chapter will be constantly under review as the quality assurance grows and develops to meet the needs of the service.

This chapter is currently under review.


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1. Staying Safe Quality Assurance Framework
2. Management Oversight
  2.1 Purpose and Context
  2.2 Management Oversight
  2.3 Supervision
3. Quality Assurance
  3.1 Audit Cycle
  3.2 Thematic Audits
  3.3 Whole Case File Audit Tool
  3.4 Family Support Quality Assurance
  3.5 Head of Service Quality Assurance
  3.6 Team Managers Across Districts
  3.7 Performance Management Meetings
4. Additional Mechanisms for ensuring Quality and Developing Practice
  4.1 Summary Document of Social Care Quality Assurance / Audit Activity
  Appendix 1: Quality of Practice Audit Tool

1. Staying Safe Quality Assurance Framework     

Click here to view the Staying Safe and Family Support Quality Assurance Framework.

2. Management Oversight

2.1 Purpose and Context

The purpose of this document and the attached schedule and tools is to set out the requirements across all field social work teams within the Staying Safe Department those being Referral & Assessment, Safeguarding and Looked After Children Teams, Children with Disabilities, Family Support and Leaving Care Team.

The document sets out terms of ensuring that:

  • Expectations for Line Managers / Team Managers and Senior Managers are clear;
  • Field work staff are clear regarding the standards against which case files, ICS records and practice will be judged;
  • Oversight and audits take place in a planned, systematic and consistent way.

It is drawn up in the context of recognising that the safeguarding of children is complex. A positive approach will be taken to quality assurance, focussing on improving, supporting and encouraging the development of good practice and working towards improving outcomes for children.

The quality assurance process is based on a culture of high support and high challenge.

The Council has a ‘no blame’ culture and recognises the complexity of working in this area. Staff receive high levels of management support, training and supervision and recognition of their positive contributions to vulnerable children and their families. Where practice falls short of what is expected there are robust systems in place to address these issues and support staff to make the necessary improvements.

2.2 Management Oversight

This is the regular, consistent oversight of decision making and quality of work which Team Managers should undertake. Much of this work is undertaken on a daily basis and can be evidenced within ICS records relating to individual children. It is the means by which the management team become aware of any issues of good practice / procedural compliance / Climbié compliance which is fed through on a fortnightly basis to Management Team Meetings.

The Case Management Decision Function or Supervision Record Function must be used consistently on all ICS records. This is audited to ensure that compliance of key requirements is met.

The Case Management Decision Function or Supervision Record Function should always be used when a:

  • Case to transfer to Leaving Care Team;
  • Case to transfer to Looked after Children Team;
  • Case to transfer to Family Support Team;
  • Case to be closed.

Other circumstances where it is necessary are:

  • Following decision to convene Child Protection Conference;
  • Following decision to Accommodate child / young person;
  • Following decision to instigate Care Proceedings;
  • When consideration is being given to using the Public Law Outline;
  • Decision to revoke Care Order;
  • Decision to rehabilitate to parents/extended family;
  • Identifying Private Fostering Arrangement;
  • Change of placements.
The Case Closure Function should always be used when the case is to be closed.

2.3 Supervision

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‘’Directors of Social Services (Children’s Social Care) must ensure that the work of staff working directly with children is regularly supervised. This must include the supervision recording, reviewing and signing the case file at regular intervals.’’
- Climbié Requirement 45.

Supervision is widely acknowledged as being crucial to effective front line social work practice. It has been accepted that effective supervision is:

  • Linked to the recruitment and retention of front line practitioners;
  • Provides a supportive environment for social care staff to reflect on their practice; and make informed decisions using professional judgement and discretion;
  • A facility for professional development and personal support;
  • A source of effective challenge to ensures the quality of work which in turn improves services and ultimately provides better outcomes for children and their families.

Supervision records are to be kept for the duration the staff member is employed and should not be destroyed for at least for 2 years after the cessation of employment.

Decisions taken in respect of children and young people should be recorded on the child’s ICS file by the line manager. Developmental needs are recorded through the annual Personal Development Reviews and reviewed annually to ensure that staff makes best use of existing opportunities and specific needs are met. Reflective discussion is to be held to ascertain how cases have progressed and decisions made.

At Induction, staff need to be given and familiarise themselves with the whole Supervision Policy - Bolton's Protocol for Standards in Supervision of Children and Families Social Workers and Recording Policy and Guidelines Procedure.

In order to Quality Assure supervision the relevant Senior Manager will undertake an Annual Audit of Supervision Files to ensure front line supervisors are effectively providing supervision to all supervisees.

A Supervision Survey will be undertaken on an annual basis.

3. Quality Assurance

This is the systematic process by which managers across the department check the compliance and quality of work completed against the department’s standards/procedures. The purpose of audit activity is to drive improvement in the quality of front line social work practice.

3.1 Audit Cycle

Audit Cycle

3.2 Thematic Audits

  • These will be undertaken on a monthly basis by the Assistant Director, Heads of Service, Team Managers and Deputy Team Managers and IRO Team Managers. This schedule is a working document and will be updated dependant on need and priorities;
  • Audits should be undertaken in the week identified on the schedule to enable the data to be collated so it can feed into the SSMT and Performance Management Cycle;
  • Audits should either be collated on the attached Audit Outcome Template or completed on the Liquid Logic Audit Tool and given to the Head of Service prior to the SSMT date identified;
  • Audits will be discussed in SSMT and an agreed person identified to collate all the findings from all related audits and devise an Action Plan which will be submitted to the Performance Management Meeting;
  • These Actions will be reviewed regularly and measured at the next repeat audit;
  • Audits should look back over the previous 12 months. The aim is to look through enough of the work to gain an impression of the quality of the work, not to read each document in detail;
  • The auditor should record on Liquid Logic that an audit has been undertaken using the drop down box and record any actions needed;
  • A Copy of the audit tool (if not on Liquid Logic) should be sent to / collated by the Quality Assurance Team;
  • The supervisor should be notified of any actions needed and ensure that these are followed up and recorded on the file that they have been reviewed within 1 month, and again the following month. It is envisaged that any actions will be completed within one month and reviewed in a subsequent month;
  • It is envisaged that these audits will take on average between 2-4 hours.

3.3 Whole Case File Audit Tool

  • Whole Case File Audits will be undertaken every 6 months by a range of staff from Deputy Team Managers, Team Managers, IROs, Heads of Service, and Assistant Director;
  • Transferring Heads of Service will also use an Audit Tool at the point of transfer of a case. An overall judgement will be made about the file and a case grading will be added to the case records;
  • The results will be collated and analysed with key messages and an Action Plan;
  • They will be presented to the Monthly Performance Management Group and to the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council;
  • This audit will use the same Case File Audit Tool required by Ofsted. A specific Case File Audit Tool will be used which will demand consideration of qualitative information requiring an in depth level of scrutiny. The Case File Audit Tool has been developed taking into consideration learning from Serious Case Reviews, Findings in Ofsted Inspection Reports, research and local identified need;
  • Approximately 35 cases will be randomly selected and reviewed. (Numbers will be dependent upon available staffing levels);
  • It is envisaged that auditors will audit 1 case each. These audits may take up to a day to complete depending on the complexity of the case;
  • The audits will go back 12 months (unless identified by the lead auditor that there is a need for longer scrutiny);
  • A Grading will be given by the auditor;
  • This grading will be used to offer a bench mark of practice and be used to measure progress in future audits.
  • Associated documents will be audited separately as identified in the Inspection Handbook (page 15);
  • The Key findings cases will be matched against the Ofsted Inspection handbook. (See Ofsted Annex F: Case Tracking Template in the Ofsted Inspection handbook: inspections of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers);
  • The auditor should use the Case File Audit Tool on Liquid Logic;
  • The auditor should feedback to the social worker and Team Manager any findings, and confirm actions and timescales;
  • It should be recorded on Liquid Logic in case notes using the drop down box that an audit has been undertaken and key actions feedback to Social Worker and Manager;
  • The Manager should ensure any actions are followed up within one month of the date of the audit and reviewed the subsequent month. A note should be made on the file that the manger has overseen the plan put in place and any issues have been actioned;
  • It may not be necessary to complete all sections of the Case File Audit Tool;
  • Audit moderation will be conducted by Heads of Service;
  • Post Audit - any urgent child protection concerns should be raised immediately with the Team Manager and social worker;
  • The Team Manager will be responsible for ensuring any actions identified from the audit are undertaken within a month;
  • An Audit Tool will also be used by Team Managers for other specific audits covering sub sections of the Tool. It should be noted in the case note which area of activity the audit covers;
  • The Auditor should ensure an ‘alert’ is sent to the Team Manager and HOS to bring their attention to the case note and audit they have undertaken.

3.4 Family Support Quality Assurance

Family Support Managers will undertake their own audit schedule. Audits must be undertaken quarterly as a minimum. Findings from each audit will be summarised in an action plan and summary which will be shared with SSMT to ensure consistency and learning across all districts.

3.5 Head of Service Quality Assurance

Random sampling of cases open to the team. This to take place monthly. Heads of Service will undertake audits on cases transferring from teams and complete a file fit for purpose form. Heads of Service will undertake an audit of supervision files once a year. Again a summary report should be produced for SSMT and any relevant actions and learning points discussed and implemented with Team Managers. Heads of Service will also be involved in audit moderation.

3.6 Team Managers Across Districts

Jointly undertake random thematic sample of cases to measure consistency across the districts.

3.7 Performance Management Meetings

Performance Management Meetings will be held on a monthly basis chaired by the Assistant Director. Relevant Team Managers will attend to explore the data and contribute to determining the ‘story behind the data’. The purpose of these meetings is to focus on specific areas of the service and examine the data available and what it means for outcomes for children. Themed audits will be discussed and Actions reviewed at these meetings.

Each area identified on the Summary of Social Care Quality Assurance will feed into the Performance Management Meeting on a specific date and added to the agenda.

4. Additional Mechanisms for ensuring Quality and Developing Practice

4.1 Summary Document of Social Care Quality Assurance / Audit Activity

This document details all the areas of work which involve quality and practice development. These will feed into monthly Performance Management Meetings chaired by the Assistant Director. Some of these include:

  • Staff Observation

    Direct observation of staff in their role is an essential part of quality assuring front line social work practice. This should happen at least every 12 months. Team Managers will identify any staff who require additional support in improving their practice;
  • Feedback From Users

    Following the closure or transfer of a case, a letter and questionnaire is sent to the family (child if appropriate) asking for comments on the service they have received from the team. This information is collated and used to review and revise practice and in planning service developments;
  • Complaints/Compliments

    Information from complaints and compliments is shared with the relevant managers immediately for feedback to staff and if necessary to revise practice, is collated on a quarterly basis and used to review and revise practice as necessary. Lessons from complaints and compliments are shared quarterly at team meetings and district meetings and used to aid service development. The Staying Safe Management Team will consider any complaints that have escalated past stage one at their fortnightly meetings;
  • Other Areas of Learning Include:

    Learning and Improvement Group, Assistant Director ‘walking the floor’, Social Work Health Check Survey, monitoring of data performance, thematic audits.

Appendix 1: Quality of Practice Audit Tool

Click here to view Appendix 1: Quality of Practice Audit Tool