Central Bedfordshire has used the last Ofsted inspection in 2017 as a catalyst to drive improvement, the latest inspection has found.
Senior leaders have remained open to external scrutiny, challenging themselves and remaining focused on doing the best for their children and young people, the focused visit to Central Bedfordshire Council children’s services found.
"Children see their social workers regularly. Social workers work hard to support them to do well. Managers ensure that children continue to receive the support that they need to be their best. Care planning is responsive to children’s changing needs; their care plans are updated regularly and in response to any changes and difficulties," said the report.
Inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in care, assessing the quality of practice and children’s experiences and progress. This aspect of service was judged as requiring improvement to be good at the last inspection.
- Children come into care when it is in their best interests to do so. Social workers conduct a full assessment of risks and seek to understand children’s needs, carefully judging whether the child can safety return to parents or other family members.
- Social workers routinely update children’s assessment reports, ensuring their reviews are informed by a full and up-to-date picture of children’s needs.
- Children’s plans are detailed, involve health and education partners well and are time specific.
- Children’s placements are stable, and children are less likely to experience frequent moves because of the support they and their carers receive.
- Managers and IROs provide effective reflective challenge and robust monitoring of children’s plans, in a manner that social workers regard as strong and supportive.
- Social workers support children well, they visit frequently, spend time getting to know them, and understand their needs.
- Politicians have a good understanding of the challenges children face. They take their corporate parenting role seriously and, in some instances, use their own resources to support children’s requests.
The local authority has successfully created the culture where workers are open to professional challenge and reflection to improve and strengthen practice.
"Social workers told inspectors that they like working for Central Bedfordshire," said the report. "They describe a continuity of supportive management and manageable caseloads. This correlates with workforce data, which indicates low staff turnover and low agency rates. Many children have had the same social worker and IRO for over two years and have been able to get to know, trust and build good relationships with them. Frontline workers are well supported to access continuous learning and development, with many supported to access postgraduate training."
To improve practice, Central Bedfordshire should focus on auditing arrangements which are still underdeveloped as the views of social workers, parents and children are not fully integrated into the auditing cycle. Further, the local authority’s processes for delivering health assessments need to improve, to ensure children’s health needs are quickly identified and addressed.