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High workloads need addressing at Staffordshire, says Ofsted

High workloads are impacting on social workers at Staffordshire children’s services, Ofsted has warned.

A restructure of the children’s social care service is planned and senior managers believe that the changes will have a positive impact on workforce capacity, caseloads and the quality of practice, resulting in improved outcomes for children and young people.

These changes have been delayed for reasons outside of the control of children’s social care.

“However, the recent rise in workloads, caused by an increased turnover of social workers, has resulted in a small number of children not receiving a good enough level of service, particularly where new risks emerge for children whose cases are already open to children’s social care,” said the Ofsted report.

“Excessively high caseloads in some social work teams across the service are having an adverse impact on social workers’ ability to see children in accordance with their plans. Social workers try to see the children they work with regularly so that they can understand their lived experiences. However, many social workers are struggling to see children enough in order to make direct work meaningful and to achieve change,” the report added.

Senior leaders recognise that improvements to the service must be made as quickly as possible to address the high workloads of social workers, to ensure first line management oversight, and to re-establish the stability that has, until now, been a positive feature of this local authority.

In the focused visit, inspectors evaluated the local authority’s arrangements for the protection of vulnerable adolescents.

They highlighted:

  • Joint working between the child sexual exploitation and missing children coordinators ensures good identification of vulnerable children.
  • The child sexual exploitation panel is well understood and is used effectively by social workers. A child exploitation risk matrix is embedded, and social workers regularly update it.
  • The work of the specialist unaccompanied asylum-seeking children team is effective. Staff are knowledgeable and well informed, and children benefit from their expertise.
  • Some young people with more complex vulnerabilities benefit from effective work by the intensive prevention service.
  • When children go missing, the response is effective in the majority of cases.

In order to improve practice, Staffordshire children’s service needs to address the audit process as it does not robustly capture or ensure that senior managers have a clear line of sight on the quality of social work practice and its impact on children. High caseloads also need addressing.

While management decisions are regularly recorded, supervision records lack sufficient evaluation and smart actions. Supervision is not used effectively to find solutions to barriers. Finally, children’s plans are not smart enough and actions do not have sufficient purpose or prioritisation in terms of timescales.

Focused inspection of Staffordshire

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