Children’s services practice in focus following Ofsted visit

Ofsted’s recent visit to Warwickshire County Council’s Children’s Services highlighted areas of effective practice.

A ‘focused visit’ took place in July 2018 where inspectors reviewed the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan.

Under the new Ofsted framework introduced in January 2018, focused visits concentrate on a theme and take place between full inspections which occur every three years. They offer inspectors the chance to look at specific areas of practice and identify what is working well as well as areas of concern.

During the visit inspectors looked at a range of evidence, including case discussions with social workers. They also looked at local authority performance management and quality assurance information and children’s case records.

The focused visit was positive and highlighted areas of strong practice. Inspectors noted the progress made since the full inspection in 2016 and found that: plans are appropriately focused on issues of risk; young people’s voices are evidenced in case recording; work has an impact on outcomes and ensuring that families receive good quality targeted direct work; the focus on reducing numbers of agency staff along with recruitment of a significant number of social workers has been successful.

A concerted effort to reduce use of agency staff has temporarily led to an increase in caseloads for social workers and this was noted by the inspectors as an area for improvement. A related issue raised by the inspectors was that team managers were holding cases on a short-term basis. Ofsted recognised that the Council plans to address this through the successful recruitment of 30 new and experienced social workers who are expected to join the authority in the next few weeks.

Feedback from Ofsted also advised further work with partners to ensure children at risk of missing education receive the right level of support and intervention and more work with managers and independent reviewing officers to enable them to better understand the thresholds for child protection and children in need interventions.

Warwickshire County Councillor, Jeff Morgan, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services said:

“The introduction of the Ofsted focused visit offers greater opportunity for Ofsted to support local authorities to improve and we welcome this approach.

“Warwickshire’s report is positive and it recognises the steps we have taken to develop good practice that puts the needs of children and families at the heart of all we do.

“We accept that our caseloads are currently high but expect to see a marked difference when around thirty new colleagues join the authority in the Autumn. Warwickshire is a great place to work – we offer good opportunities for staff development in teams that strive to achieve good outcomes for families. We have taken steps to build a strong and resilient workforce with permanent employees who take a consistent approach and build relationships with families and other agencies and we have robust plans in place to ensure people benefit from effective frontline support.”

Whilst the outcome of the focused visit was broadly positive this has no impact on the council’s grading as ‘requires improvement’. This will remain in place until the next full inspection of children’s services expected at some point in 2019.

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