Released: 8 May 2019
West Sussex County Council has pledged to make urgent improvements to its Children’s Services after an Ofsted inspection found them to be “inadequate”.
The inspection took place over a three-week period in late February/early March and looked at three areas. 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. In all three areas inspectors found services to be inadequate and as a result the overall effectiveness was judged to be inadequate.
The full Ofsted report can be read here.
Responding to the report Louise Goldsmith, the Council Leader said: “We take these findings extremely seriously.
“At present we are letting down children and families who need our help most. It is unacceptable - we are very sorry and bitterly disappointed.
“At the end of last year, we were aware services were fragile and announced a £5million investment programme to make urgent improvements.
“That work is still underway but as the inspectors have found, we are a long way from delivering the services vulnerable children and families of West Sussex deserve.
“I want to reassure residents that we will continue to do everything that is necessary to change our services for the better.
“The voices of our children need to be central to everything we do. And to that end I have already made significant changes to the Corporate Parenting Panel.”
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 starting to have a positive impact.
The report highlights 12 areas for improvement, including the infrastructure and services to support good quality social work practice, planning for permanent placements for children, staff recruitment and retention and active engagement with partners.
Nathan Elvery, the Chief Executive of West Sussex County Council said: “Improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children in West Sussex is the Council’s top priority.
“We have a plan in place to drive forward this improvement and we welcome the scrutiny and continued support of the Department for Education in helping our organisation and our partners make the improvements which are necessary.
“We have recruited a new Director of Children’s Services with a track record of leading improvement in other Local Authorities. A new improvement team will be in place to support the changes which are clearly required and ensure the quality of our social work practice is of the highest standard. We have also established an independent children’s improvement board with an independent Chair to hold us fully to account on our progress.”
The Council’s improvement plan aims to deliver stability for our social care workforce, a staff training programme to address practice improvements and a recruitment and retention programme so that social worker caseloads can be reduced.
The Department for Education will appoint a commissioner to work with the Council. We have already been actively engaged with the DfE to set up an effective working relationship to improve the outcomes for the most vulnerable children in our county.
Further information can be found here.