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.
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.