Ofsted inspection of Children's Services


Further information

Background

Background

On Wednesday 8 May 2019, Ofsted published the findings of their inspection of our children’s services undertaken in late February/early March. The full report is available here on the Ofsted website.

Their inspection looked at three areas of our services: the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families; the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection; and the experiences and progress of children in care, and care leavers. The inspectors found services in all of these areas to be ‘inadequate’. As a result, our effectiveness was judged to be ‘inadequate’ overall.

We are deeply sorry for not providing the level of care and support our looked after children and their families need and deserve. We accept the 12 areas for improvement identified by the Ofsted inspectors.

Context

Before the Ofsted inspection we were aware that our Children’s Services had challenges. Last year, on our invitation, the Local Government Association (LGA) reviewed our services and told us our Children’s Services were “fragile”. We immediately made a £5 million investment to start urgent improvements and focus primarily on the recruitment and retention of social workers.

The number and complexity of children in our care has increased significantly since 2014. West Sussex mirrors the national picture of a recognised shortage in children’s social workers. At the same time the number of cases has gone up. We are currently supporting 706 looked after children; five years ago that number was 602.

Investment and action

Investment and action

The investment last year has already had a positive impact but following the inspection we are making available a further £5 million to kick-start the improvement plan and build on the work already underway.

In addition to the investment, we have already taken the following action:-

  • Appointed a new Director of Children’s Services, with a track record in leading improvement in other local authorities.
  • Currently recruiting a specialist improvement team to assist the Director in delivering sustainable improvements throughout the service.
  • Set up a clear improvement plan that puts the voice and experience of looked after children at the centre of everything we do.
  • Recruiting more social workers in order to reduce caseloads.
  • Rolling out a major training and development programme to improve social work practice and standards.
  • Set up an improvement board with an independent chairman to review and challenge our improvement plan.
  • Changed the Council’s Corporate Parenting Panel to focus on the outcomes for our looked after children and care leavers.

Progress to build on

Ofsted did acknowledge progress had been made in some areas. The support from the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) - who deal with children when they first come into contact with the Council - is working well; and the Care Leaver’s service and the dedicated service for complex adolescents are having a positive impact.

Our commitment to improve
We take the findings of the Ofsted report extremely seriously. We want to reassure the residents of West Sussex that we are absolutely determined to improve the service we give the children in our care and their families.

Making this happen is our top priority.

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