The director of children’s services and the senior management team at Gloucestershire are providing clear direction and embedding a programme for improvement, which has resulted in improvements in practice.
A monitoring visit of Gloucestershire by Ofsted said that there continues to be significant financial investment and additional resourcing by the council in children’s services, and this investment is beginning to demonstrate improved service provision and outcomes for children.
“The local authority is making progress in improving services for children and young people,” said the report. “However, too many children continue to experience drift and delay in the assessment, planning and provision of services to meet their needs.”
The visit, which focused on children in care, found improvements since the last monitoring visit, although the quality of practice continues to be variable.
A minority of children experience placement breakdown due to poor early planning and intervention. Too many children experience delays in achieving permanence, and in some cases this has impacted on placement stability and children’s emotional well-being, it added.
The local authority has developed its offer to attract and retain staff and has increased the number of management posts to support and more effectively supervise social workers. However, there continues to be a high vacancy rate and turnover of staff, which has a negative impact on progressing children’s plans.
While the majority of social workers now have manageable caseloads, social workers do not always have the level of skills and experience required to recognise and provide effective interventions for children’s complex needs.
- The local authority recently established a process for managing children’s entry into care and early evidence shows that this process is effective in supporting robust decision-making and the appropriate application of legal thresholds.
- Clear forward planning, engagement with professionals and effective coordination of services by social workers are making a difference for children, although this is not consistent.
- The quality of assessments has improved overall, but assessments continue to be too variable and further improvements are necessary to ensure that children receive effective services within a timescale that is right for them.
- There is an urgent need to ensure rigour in the completion of risk assessments, particularly when accommodating children with highly complex needs and those who have been sexually abused.
- There continue to be delays in the completion of plans for children in care, and plans do not always assist effective care planning and decision-making.
- Children’s reviews are not effective in considering progress or implementing plans to reduce risk and address children’s needs.
Ofsted said that social workers visit children regularly and children’s views and experiences are now more clearly captured in visit records. Visits are not, however, always purposeful and there are rarely any resulting actions, even where significant events or disclosures have occurred. Direct work with children is not yet widely embedded. Management capacity has been increased and a programme to improve opportunities for reflective supervision and increase managers’ understanding and oversight of performance information is in place.
“Since the last monitoring visit, there has been an improvement in staff morale,” said the report. “Social workers spoken to by inspectors were positive about the measures that have been introduced to improve their work environment and support the development of social work practice.”
“Social workers reported that their caseloads are manageable, that they have good access to managers and felt supported by regular supervision and welcome the introduction of technology to allow flexibility in mobile working,” the report concluded.