Smaller social work teams with manageable caseloads is making a difference to children’s services in Walsall, Ofsted has said.
Senior leaders have worked intensely to improve the quality of children’s social care services and to ensure that children receive the help and protection that they need, an inspection report said.
“There are a number of wide-ranging initiatives, such as the caseload promise, a comprehensive training and development offer and a clear practice framework based on restorative practice. Progressively, this commitment is strengthening practice and the quality of services,” said the report.
Services for children in Walsall are not yet good overall, but the local authority understands its strengths and areas for development. The necessary improvements are not yet in place across all services and, as a result, some key areas still require improvement to be good.
However, significant corporate investment and increasing momentum are enhancing the workforce and improving service quality through the ‘practice uplift’ initiative. Restructuring to smaller social work teams with lower supervision ratios, along with manageable caseloads, is improving services for some children. Social workers, including newly qualified social workers, are increasingly well trained and supported.
Good-quality staff supervision is not yet established across all teams, inspectors said and often, management oversight is too brief and the rationale for decision-making is not always evident on children’s files. This means that it is not always possible to track key events and identify evidence for decisions made and it results in drift and delay in taking action when risks increase or progress is limited or not sustained. This is more evident where social workers have experienced a constant churn of team managers and have high caseloads. However, inspectors noted that supervision has been of better quality in the past six months.
Intensive early help is being delivered successfully but not yet reducing referrals to social care. Work to protect children at risk of, or experiencing sexual exploitation, is not rigorous enough.
Social work visits routinely include direct work with children and social workers work hard to establish positive relationships with children. However, this can be undermined by the high turnover of staff which can hinder relationships, as some children experience frequent changes of social workers and team managers.
Adoption services were rated ‘good’ while the other categories were rated as requiring improvement to be good.