Worcestershire children’s services continue to require much work to be of a good standard, but progress has been made, Ofsted inspectors have found.
During the third monitoring visit of Worcestershire which focused on the areas of help and protection, inspectors found significant financial investment means that senior leaders are able to implement change, from a very low base, where it is needed.
“Leaders recognise that a strong infrastructure needs to be in place to support effective social work practice and while practice overall needs to improve, positive progress is starting to be made,” said the report.
Investment in additional social workers is resulting in reduced caseloads for some, but not all, parts of the workforce, including newly qualified social workers. The local authority has also reviewed social work pay and conditions, which is resulting in a number of agency social workers securing permanent contracts with the council.
- Improvements in morale and culture of the workforce
- Social workers are growing in confidence
- An improved level of professional curiosity
- Improvements in the consistency of practice
However some children continue to experience too many changes in social workers and team managers which has resulted in delays in case progression for a small number of children. The quality and consistency of management oversight and decision-making remain areas of improvement and the local authority has not yet achieved its ambition to reduce caseloads for all social workers.
The application of thresholds for intervention by children’s social care and their partners has improved but remains inconsistent, and not all children receive a good enough service. Inspectors did not see any evidence of children suffering any adverse impact from this inconsistency.
Overall, audit activity undertaken by the local authority accurately reflects the quality of social work practice seen by inspectors. An effective whole-system approach to quality assurance has been developed.
Supervision of social workers by team managers continues to be process driven, not reflective and not always regular. However, newly qualified social workers report that they are well supported in their first year in practice although some caseloads are too high, even when co-working arrangements are in place.
A range of appropriate training and development opportunities are in place for social workers and managers, and this is starting to have the desired impact. The local authority has invested significantly in supporting social workers to understand the child’s lived experience and, as a result, assessments and plans are demonstrating early signs of featuring the child’s voice and their lived experience.