The pace of improvement has started to increase at South Gloucestershire and now needs to be accelerated, said Ofsted following a recent monitoring visit.
Since the last monitoring visit, the local authority has continued to implement its improvement plan and recent progress has been made in some areas to improve services for children and young people in care in South Gloucestershire.
“Significant recent investment by the council has supported the improvements seen by inspectors during this visit. The senior management team recognises that a number of areas continue to require improvement and there is still much to do,” said the third monitoring visit of South Gloucestershire since it was rated inadequate in February 2017.
The visit, which focused on children in care, said the recently launched ‘Ten core practice standards’, ‘Decision making and visiting standards’, ‘Permanence planning protocol’ and supervision guidance have been effective in raising standards in the recording and frequency of social workers’ visits to children, as well as helping to improve managers’ tracking of children’s cases to permanency.
However, decisions for children to come into care are not always timely. The impact of challenge and scrutiny by independent reviewing officers is not sufficiently effective. Team managers do not always take steps to remedy poor social work practice in children’s assessments and plans.
A new model of social work practice has recently been implemented, but it is too early for this to have demonstrated any impact.
- The senior management team has established a cycle of audit activity of individual children’s cases and themed audits.
- The use of performance information by senior managers to monitor how well the service is working is now embedded.
- Social workers report good management support and that morale is high in South Gloucestershire.
- Supervision is now regular and evident in the vast majority of children’s cases seen by the inspectors.
- When children’s cases are in the court process, they are well managed by social workers and managers.
- Social workers know the children and families they work with well.
However, Ofsted noted that audit activity is improving but does not consistently provide an accurate overview of all practice, learning or professional development needs.
Social workers told inspectors that their standard of work declines in relation to high workload. For example, chronologies are not kept up to date, which means that a potentially effective tool is not used well to make the best decisions for children. The assessments of children seen by inspectors are of variable quality.
Pre-proceedings work, once begun, is mostly timely, and decisions for children to come into care are appropriate. However, for some children the decision is made too late. Poor management oversight and inconsistent planning hampers timely decision-making for some children.
“Child sexual exploitation risk assessments are evident on children’s case files, but they vary in quality and impact on reducing risk to children and young people. Some risk assessments are carried out to a high standard and provide an effective analysis of risk and safety planning. More work is required to improve the overall quality and timeliness of return home interviews for children,” the report concludes.