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Steady pace of improvement at South Gloucestershire

The scope and pace of improvement of services for children and young people in need of permanency in South Gloucestershire has been steady and realistic, Ofsted has said.

In its fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in February 2017, Ofsted highlighted that South Gloucestershire had now moved into the second phase of its improvement plan.

"However, the senior leadership team recognises that a number of areas continue to require improvement to ensure that children in need of permanency receive a good service," said the report.

During the visit, inspectors reviewed the progress made for children looked after. It said the steady pace of improvement had been achieved despite a new electronic case work system being introduced in March 2018 as well as changes to senior management.

"Senior leaders have maintained a consistent focus on improving outcomes for children in the areas considered during the visit," said the report. "Permanency planning, including the use and support of special guardianship arrangements, is well established. Delegated authority for carers, which had previously been an area of weakness, is also now well established."

Ofsted highlighted:

- A well-established cycle of audit activity shows an improved level of insight and scrutiny since the last monitoring visit. The audits now provide a good sense of the child’s lived experience.

- Since the last Single Inspection Framework (SIF) inspection in 2016, permanence for children has been achieved more promptly.

- Placement stability continues to be a strength. Low numbers of children have had three or more placement moves. For those few who have had three or more moves, the reasons are appropriate and purposeful.

- Effective use of special guardianship orders has enabled children to remain in a family environment that is familiar to them and that meets their needs.

- Social workers see children regularly and know them well.

- Inspectors saw some good direct work and life-story work.

However, the majority of audits failed to identify deficits in the quality of supervision of social workers. Supervision is mostly timely, but its quality needs to improve. Further, the IRO role in scrutiny and challenge continues to be an area for development. The escalation process is insufficiently used and when used is not effective in leading to practice improvement.

"All children have assessments that inform their plans. This is an improvement since the last inspection in 2016. Assessments are, however, still variable in quality. The poorer assessments don’t contain all professionals’ views, which means that they can’t be used to inform the analysis and to plan. The child’s voice is not consistently strong," said the report.

The quality of case recording by social workers and managers is still too variable. Inspectors found some good recording, which gave a good sense of the child’s lived experience. However, too many records fail to capture important events and the outcomes of incidents.

"Social workers like working in South Gloucestershire and report that reduced caseloads have been pivotal in improving their social work practice with children. Senior leaders know their areas of strength, the areas where improvements are still inconsistent and the areas that require further development," the report concluded.

Monitoring visit of South Gloucestershire

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