In their latest report, Ofsted inspectors say that there are improvements within our Childrens Services, but that there is more to do.
“New performance management arrangements, more routine oversight of permanence options and a more open learning culture have resulted in some positive changes and an increased sense of urgency in achieving progress,” Ofsted write in their report, published today (Thursday 25 May).
“Social workers say that communication from the current senior leadership team is much clearer and that they are more visible outside of County Hall, including offering support to those who are working in under-performing teams,” they write.
And “social workers value the support of team managers.”
“Corporate and political leaders have added weight to the improvement programme, financially and by strengthening their own governance arrangements,” Ofsted say
And “crucially, they are engaging partners outside the county council to support the improvement plan, including neighbouring local authorities.”
But while the Ofsted report shows that the council is making headway on its path to improvement, there is more yet to do.
“The quality of social work practice across Devon remains inconsistent,” they write.
Children are still experiencing delays in securing permanent homes. Some children are “left for longer than necessary without action being taken to achieve their long-term permanence.”
“Weak management oversight through supervision, insufficient challenge by independent reviewing officers, gaps in recording and poor care planning are often the root cause of these delays,” inspectors say.
Recruitment of permanent children’s social workers remains a significant challenge for the council.
“Agency social work staff continue to make up over 40 per cent of the workforce, and in recent months the turnover in this cohort has increased significantly,” Ofsted note.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Children’s Services, said:
“I am pleased that Ofsted inspectors see improvements across our Children’s Service, and that the changes that we have been making are already having a positive impact on some children , and we want to extend that consistently to all children in our care.
“We acknowledge though that consistency is key, and that we need to carry the good practice in some areas to all of our teams.
“Recruitment of permanent high quality children’s social workers remains a significant challenge, and we’re doing all we can to reduce our reliance on temporary agency social workers, and to build stronger and more consistent relationships between social workers and children in care.
“We have some way to go, but as Ofsted report, there is optimism in our teams, we are on the right path and we are making progress.”