East Sussex leaders set exceptionally high standards for children's services, Ofsted said, rating the authority as 'outstanding'.
East Sussex, where the Association of Directors of Children's Services president is the director, is a strong, dynamic learning organisation that encourages self-reflection at all levels.
"Leaders and managers have successfully established a culture in which talented social workers stay, and where effective social work flourishes," said the report. "The social care workforce is impressively stable and resilient at all levels and in all teams."
"The East Sussex model of ‘connected practice’ has been comprehensively rolled out and is fully embedded, resulting in helpful, enduring and trusting relationships between practitioners, children and their families, sometimes over many years," it added.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection were rated good. Inspectors found:
- Children who are referred to the Single Point of Advice (SPOA) receive a timely and proportionate response.
- There were thoughtful assessments and plans to address risks relating to radicalisation and female genital mutilation.
- Family assessments are consistently well written; they include family history and are well informed by research references.
- Child protection plans are consistently clear and comprehensive.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers are outstanding. Inspectors said:
- Outstanding practice is widespread across the service and is supported by a range of well-used direct work tools such as communication and participation, digital, and neglect toolkits.
- Children enter care based on clear and timely assessments of their needs.
- Social workers and managers in all parts of the service think about and plan for permanence early and well.
- Children are supported well by specialist emotional and mental health services, such as child and adolescent mental health services for looked after children.
- An impressive whole-council approach to the support of care leavers means that this has markedly improved since the previous inspection in 2014.
- The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is outstanding. Inspectors highlighted:
- An experienced and confident political and senior leadership team, with long service in East Sussex, demonstrates an impressive level of understanding about their community and the impact of services for local children.
- Workforce sufficiency planning is exemplary, and children benefit from the support they receive from increasingly experienced, stable and resilient practitioners.
- Social workers have easy access to a range of relevant training, targeted tools and specialist consultation; this supports them to meet the complex needs of children.
- The majority of social workers benefit from regular supervision and managers regularly monitor social worker caseloads, ensuring that they are manageable.
"Leaders and managers work creatively and persistently with partners to respond to emerging and changing need. An accurate understanding of strengths and weaknesses underpins targeted and purposeful investment in well-regarded and nationally recognised projects and initiatives. This approach firmly supports continual improvement," the report concluded.
In order to improve, East Sussex should focus on the consideration and recording of managers’ rationale for the timescales they agree for completing family assessments, in line with each child’s presenting needs. The clarity and accessibility of letters that are sent to parents when legal proceedings are being considered should also be improved.