Buckinghamshire children’s services is making some early progress in improving services for children and young people who are the subject of a child in need plan, Ofsted has said.
In the first monitoring visit of the children’s services department since it was judged to be inadequate in December 2017, inspectors said some progress had been made “from a very low base”.
“Senior leaders have a clear and well-informed understanding of the significant weaknesses in the quality of work with children in need,” said the report of the inspection which focused on children in need. “Plans to improve practice are credible and well devised. Senior managers are strongly committed to moving forward at a realistic pace, and are determined to achieve rapid and sustainable improvements in children’s circumstances and outcomes.”
Social workers said they felt “heard” during the process of change. Caseloads are too high, and this limits the time that social workers have available to spend working directly with children and their families. This, in turn, reduces their ability to build trusting relationships with families that will provide the basis for challenge, support and positive change, the report said.
While the impact of most social work remains too weak, there are encouraging signs of early improvement, underpinned by realistic plans to build on this foundation.
The workforce is comparatively stable and permanent with relatively low vacancy levels, turnover rates and use of agency social workers.
However, the local authority is also committed to evaluating and increasing the capacity of frontline managers and social workers in order to understand what is effective and safe social work with children in need.
However, the report highlighted that senior managers fully recognise the vital and difficult role that front-line managers play in creating the right environment for achieving improved practice standards and outcomes for children and so are investing in the training and development of this group.
“Senior managers are introducing a learning and reflective approach as an integral part of case auditing and quality assurance. While this is a positive new initiative, it is too soon to identify what impact it is having on supervision and practice,” the report concluded.
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