Agenda item

OFSTED Monitoring Visit and Deep Dive of Children's Services

A report on the Ofsted Monitoring Visit and Deep Dive of Children’s Services.



The Director of Children, Education and Early Help Services submitted a report providing the Committee with an update on the monitoring visit that Ofsted had carried out on 31 July and 1 August 2018 on Looked After Children (LAC) over 16 years old and Care Leavers, and the Deep Dive exercise the Commissioner had carried out on 5 and 6 September 2018 which had looked at the overall Children’s Social Care system with a focus on children in need who had recently been referred to the Department. 

The report stated that the main finding from the monitoring visit had been that young people leaving care were in receipt of better services than they had been at the last inspection visit two years previously.  Ofsted had observed that there was careful preparation of young people to leave care, there were sustained efforts to help all young people in this cohort, there was determined and dedicated work and there was a strong intent to improve the lives of care leavers which had permeated the work of practitioners.  Inspectors had stated that senior managers had worked methodically to improve the range and suitability and availability of accommodation for young people.  The Housing Department and Children’s Social Care had been found to be working in partnership and were offering 12 social housing flats for care leavers each year.  The Housing Department also supported and advised young people on how to obtain suitable and decent standard accommodation in the private rented sector and importantly no young people had been placed in bed and breakfast or unsuitable houses of multiple occupation.

Young people who had arrived in the Borough as unaccompanied asylum seekers had been judged to be carefully supported and found accommodation suitable to their needs.  Progress had also been made in engaging more young people leaving care in meaningful education, employment and training opportunities.  Key areas for further development had been identified as follows:

?    Improving participation and involvement of young people in developing and influencing provision;

?   Ensuring a clear pathway for emotional health and wellbeing service with health partners;

?   Continuing to improve supervision practice to eradicate variability.

The report explained that the Council was still awaiting formal written feedback from the Deep Dive visit that had taken place in September 2018 and a full report was expected in the near future.  At the verbal feedback session from the Commissioner to senior managers and the Lead Councillor for Children on 7 September 2018, the key areas that were going well had been defined as follows:

?   Better match between senior managers and front line narrative regarding identified need improvements being made;

?   Improved partnership working and relationships;

?   Greater stability with senior managers and good political drive for improvement;

?   Good support for newly qualified social workers;

?   Good specialist skills and response from the front door;

?   Stability and good local knowledge in Early Help Services;

?   Some growing evidence of ‘children’s voice’ evidenced in work observed.

Areas that still needed more work included the following:

?   Recording needed to be embedded, the electronic recording database, Mosaic, needed to be simplified and greater ‘floor walking’ support was required from the Mosaic Team;

?   Chronologies needed to start earlier and be of good quality to help casework through the system;

?   Transition points and internal thresholds for children’s cases needed improving to reduce duplication of effort;

?   Numbers of social workers and managers in the safeguarding service needed to increase to further reduce caseloads and enable front line staff to manage complex work;

?   Communication with staff;

?   Embedding of a new supervision policy and approach.

The verbal findings of the Deep Dive event had been accepted as helpful and key improvements would be built into the refreshed Children’s Services Improvement Board plan which would presented to the Board in November 2018.

The report stated that improvement work was happening every day across key areas in Children’s Services and particular focus was on reducing demand, ensuring manageable caseloads for social workers, recruitment and supporting delivery of best practice.  Examples of work carried out within this included the following:

?   A focus on Court work practice with expert resource brought in to mentor workers on care planning and carrying out parenting assessments;

?   Practice week that had been held during the week commencing 17 September 2018 with a series of observations of practice to asses quality and identify good work and share this across the service;

?   Launch of a new supervision methodology;

?   Getting to good events that were delivered via the Council’s improvement partner Achieving for Children;

?   Continued drive to improve recruitment;

?   A service transformation delivery plan focusing on improvement to appropriately reduce demand, improve practice and deliver associated savings targets.

A full self-evaluation of Children’s Social Care was being carried out to evaluate progress of improvements and look at next steps and an external ‘critical friend’ process was being booked for mid October 2018.  A refreshed Improvement Plan, based on the self-assessment, would be presented to the Children’s Services Improvement Board at the end of November 2018.  This would set the course and areas of focus for the next phase of the improvement journey and would feed into the Annual Conversation with Ofsted in February 2019.

Finally, the report stated that the Council could expect a further visit before a full re-inspection, as within the current inspection framework inspection dates were unannounced.

Stephen Kitchman, Director of Children, Education and Early Help Services, reported at the meeting that the written feedback had been received in respect of the Deep Dive visit on 3 October 2018 and had been in line with the verbal feedback from the Commissioner.  He also informed the Committee that the average case load for social works was 18 cases and that a lot of work had been carried out in respect of social worker recruitment, including the setting up of a dedicated recruitment team and work being carried out on a comprehensive recruitment strategy.  Stephen also acknowledged the need to focus on retention and recruitment.


Resolved –    That the report and outcomes from the Ofsted monitoring visit and associated Deep Dive be noted.

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