County council remain committed to ongoing improvement in its children’s services
A committed workforce, a clear vision and significant financial investment means that Gloucestershire County Council continues to improve its children’s services whilst acknowledging that more needs to be done to increase pace and consistency.
Three months on from their last visit, Ofsted returned to the county council on 15 and 16 January to carry out their fifth monitoring visit. In their latest report they said that progress has been made in “a number of areas of the refreshed improvement plan” but more permanent social workers would provide consistency in their practices.
Ofsted noted that the quality and range of performance management information used by senior managers and leaders to understand and monitor children’s experiences are comprehensive. As a result, the report says that timeliness of responses and regularity of visits to children in need of help and protection has improved.
Performance has also improved for the small numbers of children experiencing delay in being allocated a social worker.
Ofsted reiterate throughout the report that a more stable workforce is fundamental to improving the quality and consistency of practices going forward. More work is needed to make sure visits to children, young people and their families are regular and purposeful and plans need to be more detailed.
In meeting this challenge, the council has established a clear approach to social worker recruitment. They have recruited staff from overseas, and are providing “effective support for student and newly qualified social workers,” says the report. In addition, Ofsted recognised that the council is well on their way to establishing a Social Work Academy which will provide training and support to children’s social care staff, in turn improving practices.
Social workers have manageable caseloads and staff morale continues to be good. Managers have better oversight of the children, young people and families they support and are able to use good quality information to assess the effectiveness of the services they provide. However, more challenge and direction is needed to improve social work practice - which the county council is addressing through a number of management training opportunities.
Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “We remain committed to improving our children’s services and this latest report from Ofsted reflects this. We know more needs to be done, and we are taking action to make the improvements as fast as we can. We continue to put more money into protecting the most vulnerable children and families- in total £27.1 million since 2016/17 – with an extra £11 million in this year’s budget.
“We know ourselves well - we know our strengths and our weaknesses –which is why during their latest monitoring visit we asked Ofsted to focus on the areas we know we still need to improve, including our services for young people in need of help and protection, in care and as care leavers.
“The recruitment and retention of social workers remains our main challenge and a key focus going forward. This is fundamental to make sure that we offer consistent help and support, and to improve the outcomes of children and young people who need our help the most.”