Click each question to reveal the answer.
Looked After Children (LAC)
Q: Is there a risk of breaching data protection laws?
A: We do not ask for any data that is not needed, no software is installed on to schools systems, so there is no risk of gathering data not intended for our use.
Q: What if we don’t have the funding for this service?
A: Welfare Call Ltd understands the budgetary constraints some authorities have. Therefore, we have the ability to either pilot the scheme with a select number of children or specifically target the in or out of borough children.
Q: Do Welfare Call staff need educational training?
A: No, we are a reporting organisation. No certified educational training is needed to ask a school if a particular child is present and similarly, no training is required to ask a parent or carer why a child is absent – only a pre-agreed script between the authority and ourselves. However, our operators do need training on how to utilise and manage our maintenance / database system. Once the absentees have been identified and the reason for their absence confirmed this is then reported back to either the education welfare department and/or the social services department who have trained staff to deal with the issues raised.
Q: What if we have direct software links to the schools registers?
A: All this does is give you access to the attendance data. Someone then has to collect the data, collate the data and action the absences, where applicable. Welfare Call Ltd do it all and simply report the absences to you on a daily basis complete with the reason for the absence as given by the carer/parent of the child. Software cannot do this, it can only gives present or absent breakdown. Having a personal relationship with a school by calling daily like Welfare Call does, also unearths other information that couldn’t be known by simply pulling the data using a software application.
Q: How can you help if we have no issues with attendance?
A: This service is not only about attendance issues. All authorities have a legal responsibility to report LAC attendance information back to central government on the SSDA903 document. Welfare Call Ltd provides this information, updated daily, to satisfy these requirements at a minimal cost, with no impact on existing administration procedures and staff.
Q: Wouldn’t this contravene the human rights of the children?
A: This is totally untrue. Welfare Call Ltd is acting as the legal representatives of the corporate parent and as such has a right to check on the attendance of their wards at whatever frequency the authority sees fit.
Q: Wouldn’t it be cheaper to do the work in-house?
A: It may well appear, at first glance, to be cheaper to collect the data in-house. We know from experience that the collection and collation of data may well occur on a half term or full term basis and that the ability to react to any developing attendance issues is lost. The collection of the data is done by either EWO’s or the dedicated LAC virtual head teacher, both of whom are expensive resources to use for a simple data collection exercise. If you are comparing like for like service delivery, then we guarantee that no authority will be able to deliver a DAILY ATTENDANCE check, and action all absentees, every day, for a similar or even lesser cost.
Q: Surely you’d aggravate the schools by calling them all the time?
A: We are not in the business of trying to cause friction between the authority and schools. Once the school know who we are, we begin to build on that relationship and they become used to the call and have the information ready on demand. We currently contact approx. 6,000 schools a day and we have less than 1% that are against this method. However, we can contact once a week as a last option if this is recommended by the authority.
Q: How robust are your security measures, given the sensitivity of the data?
A: There are two ways we can supply the attendance reports to authorities, depending on preference. The first is by secure email where we’ve implemented egress software – http://www.egress.com/local-central-government/ , and the second is through our robust extranet portal. The extranet uses an SSL connection whilst sending data to and from any location, so the data is kept secure. We are also penetration tested once a year (every November) to make sure that the portal cannot be hacked. All our data is backed up and stored offsite in the event of a disaster (which has never been the case!). The Drives containing the data are also fully encrypted. Welfare Call has never outsourced or commissioned a third party company to aide in the gathering of this information. If you’d like a more detailed document outlining all of Welfare Call’s security measures, then please feel free to contact us.
Youth Offending Service (YOS)
Q: Am I right in thinking there’s no legal requirement to gain attendance information for youth offenders?
A: This point is absolutely right but this doesn’t or shouldn’t stop the department from wanting to check on their youth’s educational progress. We not only notify the educational establishments, parents/carers and even children themselves (if over 16) with ‘introduction to service’ letters, but we also stress that it is the will of the authority to try to improve the educational attendance of the children.
Client Follow Up
Q: What if the telephone script does not flow?
A: We always do a number of sample calls first to make sure the script flows and the client understands the questions, any queries raised we revert to you.
Q: What does the service entail and what is the cost?
A: For just £1.50 per client, we attempt to make contact with the Connexions or NCS client 6 times to determine what they are currently doing, be it still in education, employment / unemployed or training. Template scripts are provided and can be amended at the branches discretion. Additional notes from the client are provided and reasons plus evidence for no contact being made are also highlighted.
Q: We use our own internal system, can we still use you?
A: There are Next Step branches that already use us whilst using the Reidmark system. The only difference being is instead of using our own system to produce the results and send back to you, we are provided with a password to use Reidmark and input our outcomes onto their system for you.
Ivy Namala – Lambeth Virtual School
The ePEP is an excellent tool. It is as good as the information we give to Welfare Call. Once there I feel confident that the data is kept more accurate, than the one we have at our local authority. It is reassuring that Welfare Call does most of the work, especially the monitoring of attendance. Welfare Call sometimes know the whereabouts of a child school change, before the social worker or Virtual School. It is reassuring. Thank you!
Graeme Ferguson, Virtual School Head, Derby City Council
We have been using the Welfare Call ePEP now for over a year having had a paper based PEP previously.
Over this period we have seen:
- our timely completion rates for the ePEP improve from 85% to 95%
- an improved quality of what has been written within the ePEP
- greater consistency
- improved communication with DT’s and SW’s
- better accountability for responsibilities
Chris Hargreaves Virtual School Head for Doncaster
I have used Welfare Call for the last three years. The basic service enables me to track, closely, the attendance and exclusions of children in care. I appreciate the support received from the company – they listen to the customer and respond in a positive and effective way.
Jane Munroe Virtual School Head for Harrow Authority
The customer service we receive from Welfare Call is excellent. They always answer calls, return emails, solve problems and are very helpful when things do not go according to plan.
Lorraine Brown, HEART Administrator for Enfield Authority
During the last 5 years Welfare Call staff have been most helpful in providing any specific reports as required in a timely fashion. Telephone calls are met with a willingness to help. More than pleased with service and have recently signed a three year contract.
Erika Lutzke, Business Support Officer for London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Authority
We have been employing the services of Welfare Call for a number of years now, and find them indispensable to the collection of looked after children’s attendance and exclusion data, and also their KS2/KS4 data. Welfare Call reports make it easy to compare and analyse data and take appropriate measures to improve our children’s attendance and attainment.
‘Care Matters’ Parliamentary Green Paper (page 60)
Tower Hamlets have contracted with a private company to monitor the school attendance of their children in care. The company call the school every day for those children most at risk of non- attendance and less frequently for those attending regularly. Where a child is not in school, Tower Hamlets will be alerted and can then investigate the reasons for non- attendance. As a result, the number of children in care absent for 25 days or more dropped by 22% in a year: the number of children with permanent exclusions dropped by 33%; and the number of fixed term exclusions dropped by more than 50%.
Wendy Holmes, Advisory Officer Alternate Provision Attendance for North Lincolnshire Authority
Welfare Call has given me a first class service and response at all times. No change is too much trouble for them. They are a very knowledgeable company, who know what they are talking about and are willing to go the extra mile.
Tony Clifford, Virtual Head for Stoke-on-Trent Authority
Working with Welfare Call over the six years that our Virtual School has been in place has been one of the key factors in enabling us to achieve a ‘good’ judgement for Enjoy and Achieve from Ofsted in our recent inspection of LAC services. Our performance teams have been able to work closely with Welfare Call to give us accurate and immediate information about all our out of city LAC and this in turn has improved the timeliness and effectiveness of our interventions. I am impressed by Welfare Call’s commitment to making a difference to young people in care
Steve Mather Virtual Head for Sheffield Authority
We have had an annual contract with Welfare Call for several years, and we have been so satisfied with their service that I have been able to persuade my director to allow me to arrange a longer term deal with them. As a result I am able to deploy my team of staff much more effectively on advocacy and challenge rather than administration and compliance. We are in contact with the company on an almost daily basis. They respond to our requests for support almost immediately, and in a most professional and positive manner. They monitor the attendance of each child wherever they are in the country by calling every school every day, and by alerting social workers and carers to any unexplained non-attendance the same day. Schools are used to working with them as part of their daily routine. They have been instrumental in supporting us to establish an ePEP solution for our children. As a result our PEP in-date completion figures have improved significantly, and the quality of the PEPs is improving rapidly. They continue to work with us on developing and improving our bespoke template. Clearly we are happy with the service they deliver, and would recommend you talk to them further to explore how they can build your capacity, and meet your needs.