The latest Ofsted Monitoring visit concluded that there have been significant improvements made to children’s services, according to their latest letter, which is published on our website at www.southglos.gov.uk/ofsted.
While Ofsted acknowledged that there was still more work to do, they highlighted a number of significant changes which have already taken place to improve the quality and care provided for children in need of support in South Gloucestershire.
Since the Ofsted inspection of 2017, a number of measures have been put in place that have contributed to the improvements seen so far, including the recruitment of additional staff in a number of key areas, such as extra social workers in the Access and Response Team (ART), as well as in the locality teams. Further plans to recruit extra staff in the coming year are also being developed.
Ofsted inspectors say the current pace of improvement in children’s services has started to increase and that recent actions provide a strong foundation for the improvement of social work practice and outcomes for children.
Inspectors highlighted a number of initiatives which have been brought in which are effective in raising standards in the recording and frequency of social workers’ visits to children. They also highlight that social workers report good management support and that morale is high among staff.
When children’s cases go through the court process, they are well managed by social workers and managers. Social workers carefully consider contact arrangements between children and their families and managers effectively track all children to ensure that permanency plans are timely and appropriate.
Social workers know the children and families they work with well and have a good understanding of children’s wishes and feelings. Inspectors saw examples of skilled, timely engagement with children by social workers, dealing with complex sensitive issues.
Our detailed action plan, which was drawn up to address the areas where improvements needed to be made, is overseen by an independently-chaired Improvement Board, which reports directly to Cabinet.
At their most recent Cabinet meeting, Members heard that the Board is increasingly confident of an improved rating when the service receives its next full inspection and they approved the Phase Two Improvement Plan, with an additional £767,000 in new funding, to take the next steps on the improvement journey. The new plan includes:
- Further recruitment of staff, bringing in more high-level expertise and experience to assist with the improvement journey and a Signs of Safety lead to oversee implementation of this model in which staff have been trained; (Signs of Safety is a multi-agency approach to working with children and families, in which social work practitioners balance needs and risks with family strengths.)
- A pilot project will see the council more closely involved in training its own new social workers, using an academy model, which will involve experienced senior social workers mentoring newly qualified staff;
- Management support to a new, additional locality team, adding significant capacity to front line services so that children can be better assessed and more quickly supported.
Councillor Jon Hunt, Cabinet Member responsible for Children and Young People, said: “I am encouraged by the latest findings by Ofsted inspectors, which demonstrate the council is moving in the right direction.
“We recognise there is still a way to go in order to bring all social work practice to the same consistently high standards that the children we support deserve. To help achieve this goal, a new model of social work practice is being implemented and our staff remain committed to providing the best outcomes for children and their families.
“Ofsted have acknowledged that the foundational work has been done and we will now focus on and accelerate the work to ensure consistently high standards are achieved.
“We need to ensure that those high standards are what all the children we support experience, which is why we will fund and implement the Phase Two Improvement Plan.
“We have made this progress thanks to a tremendous amount of work from our dedicated staff. I want to pay tribute to their efforts. They will have our full support as we deliver more of the same and look forward to receiving a much improved assessment when Ofsted re-inspect.”