Positive changes to service help keep children safe
A new management structure, partnership working, and an improvement plan. Just a few things Gloucestershire County Council is introducing to bring transparency to its children’s services and to tackle Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ rating.
The council has acted quickly in response to Ofsted’s feedback following its inspection earlier this year. The senior management structure within children’s services has a new interim director, Alison Williams and Neelam Bhardwaja has joined the team from Haringey Council as interim improvement and operations director.
A new quality assurance framework has been put in place. This will help management to assess the quality of the service offered by the council’s 500 dedicated social work staff. Greater transparency from management is also helping to tackle the disconnect identified between the leadership and frontline staff to ensure a more positive working environment for staff.
Changes have also been made in the way the council deals with cases on a day to day basis. By improving the quality of assessments, children and families are receiving a more timely service, directly addressing concerns raised by Ofsted.
From September the council is also bringing in a partner to help deliver the improvement programme over a two year period. Suzie Goodman joins from Essex County Council and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in turning a service around.
The council has formed an improvement board. The board met for the first time on 21st July to discuss the plan for driving the standards of the service up. To monitor the council’s improvement process, the Department for Education (DfE) has appointed John Goldup as advisor, who also sits on the improvement board.
The council is required by Ofsted to develop an Improvement Plan and this will be discussed at Cabinet on the 18th September.
Once adopted, it will give the council a clear strategy to raise standards of children’s services.
Ofsted will be visiting the council on 5th September 2017 to discuss the action plan and carrying out their first monitoring visit in the week commencing 18th September.
Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “The improvement plan the board has put together focusses on making sustainable changes to the service to improve how we keep children safe in the county.
“By putting money into the service where it is needed most, cutting the delays and red tape that prevent us helping children as quickly as we should and driving up performance across the service we can make the improvements cited by Ofsted.
“We’re already making progress but we know there is still a lot of hard work ahead. This improvement plan gives us the clarity we need to make these changes and to drive standards up.”
Alison Williams, interim director of children’s services, said: “We all have a responsibility to care for our most vulnerable children, and it is clear from Ofsted’s report that the council has fallen short.
“We’ve made immediate changes and improvements to processes, including more robust quality assurance checks, recruitment of top social work specialists and embedding a more open and transparent culture within the service.
“We know we have the right staff, resources, plans and leadership in place to drive further improvements and help us to make more positive changes as soon as possible.”
The council and board’s focus will now be on making improvements as quickly as possible in order to keep children in Gloucestershire safe.