There has been a lack of urgency to develop partnership working in the borough of Sandwell since Sandwell Children’s Trust was established, Ofsted has warned.
Inspectors noted that since the re-inspection in 2018, a great deal of work has been completed to establish the Trust and an ambitious improvement plan has been developed which sets out eight priority areas and with all eight priorities being led by the chief executive and Trust directors.
However, Ofsted noted: “Although work has started on most of the priorities, it is significant that since the re-inspection there has been a lack of urgency to develop partnership working in the borough. This partnership working is crucial to ensure that children and families receive services to improve their outcomes.”
The report highlights that some “long-standing barriers to improvement remain,” most notably the instability of the workforce with almost a third being agency or interim staff. This means that some children are having too many changes of social worker, which inhibits the development of trusting and meaningful relationships. Caseloads are too high for some workers, which means that they have insufficient time to devote to in-depth work with children.
The Trust recognises that action is required to combat this and is developing a renewed offer to social workers to attract and retain staff, the report noted.
The report highlighted:
- The Trust is reinforcing a culture of learning and development through its performance and quality assurance framework although it is still developing its audit tool.
- Staff spoke positively about the new ‘beyond auditing’ process, whereby team members will have opportunities to develop their practice.
- Assessments are not yet good and they are not routinely updated when children’s circumstances change.
- Although the written information is not always of a good quality, social workers know their children well.
- Social workers report that they feel well supported by their managers and that they value supervision.
- Managers do not provide social workers with consistently clear direction and timescales to complete assessments in most cases.
- Independent reviewing officers do not challenge or escalate concerns when assessments are not completed.
- Risks and protective factors are described well in assessments, but analysis does not thoroughly examine the impact on children.
“Some social workers make good use of research in their assessments and in most cases, they reach clear recommendations. Managers signing off assessments present a clear synopsis of the case, along with rationale for their recommendations. This demonstrates that managers have a clear understanding of the work completed by social workers and that the right actions and services are put in place to improve children’s outcomes,” the report concluded.