Surrey children's services are introducing a new practice model and service structure, Ofsted has said.
Leaders have planned for these fundamental system changes to be in place by April 2019, the monitoring visit to Surrey local authority children’s services found.
"Overall the effectiveness and timeliness of permanence planning for children who are unable to live with their parents has improved since the inspection, and a range of options, including adoption, placements with extended family members and special guardianship orders, are considered at the same time," said the report following the monitoring visit which evaluated the experiences of children in care.
- The completion and timeliness of initial health assessments for children who become looked after has significantly improved from a very low rate, but further work is required to ensure that all children are assessed within the first four weeks.
- Some children’s care plans are specific, with well-crafted actions, aligned with primary objectives to improve their outcomes and achievements, but this is not established practice
- Most children in care are visited within required timescales by their social workers.
- Many children in care live in safe, nurturing and stable placements which help them to gradually overcome earlier trauma and disadvantages experienced in their birth families.
- Social workers are largely highly motivated about the introduction of the new practice model and service structure.
The report also found that some children’s care plans are specific, with well-crafted actions, aligned with primary objectives to improve their outcomes and achievements, but this is not established practice.
The quality of personal education plans for children in care remains poor and the active involvement of the virtual school is insufficient, it added.
In two of the four local authority area quadrants that were visited by inspectors, most social workers who were spoken to described accessible, regular and supportive management supervision and guidance. However, this is not well evidenced in most children’s electronic case records.
"The effectiveness of management oversight and the standard of social work practice was stronger in one of the two quadrant offices visited. Here, children in care benefit from a comparatively stable management and leadership team and more permanent, longer-serving social workers. Inspectors saw more examples of purposeful direct work with children and frequent and focused management, as well as early, proactive permanence planning," said the report.
"However, overall, and in accordance with the local authority’s own analysis, inspectors found continuing weaknesses and inconsistencies in services for children in care. These included not regularly reassessing changed circumstances and significant events, intermittent and poorly focused case supervision and poorly planned direct work with children," the report concluded.