To update the Committee of the outcome of the latest Ofsted Monitoring visit.
11.1 The Director of Children Services (DCS) informed the committee that this monitoring visit had been the fifth of six visits by Ofsted and that the council could expect a full inspection in the Autumn. He also explained that if it was felt necessary the council could negotiate for an additional monitoring visit ahead of the inspection. The next monitoring visit was scheduled for 30 April 2019.
11.2 The DCS drew committee member’s attention to Ofsted’s comments relating to the level of churn in the social worker workforce, the negative impact that this was having on the consistency and quality of practice, and that the council was making insufficient progress in improving services for its children. It was noted that these comments were in line with concerns raised by committee members.
11.3 In response to questions the DCS indicated that he felt that whilst progress had flat lined for the first 12 months post inspection it was now picking up, and explained that the Ofsted process looked at the whole improvement journey and was why this improvement was not reflected in the letter.
11.4 Members agreed with the DCS that stabilising the workforce was the key factor going forward. The DCS outlined the activity in place to improve this position, including the Social Worker Academy, the recruitment of social workers from India and the agreed (by Cabinet) increase in the number of ASYEs (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment).
11.5 In response to questions the DCS explained that the main issue in retaining staff was instability within teams; the level of churn meant that it was hard for people to receive the level of support and supervision that they needed to prosper in the role.
11.6 Members were concerned about the impact of multiple changes in social worker on the individual child/young person. The DCS informed the committee that Ofsted saw this as a real weakness in practice which reinforced the need to stabilise the workforce. Members were concerned as to how trust could be maintained between the child/young person and the social worker in these circumstances. The DCS informed the meeting that it was important for the social worker to be honest and upfront with the child/young person and properly manage expectations. The Chairman, who had declared an interest as a foster carer, stated that in his experience what these children wanted was consistency, what was said would happen happens – it wasn’t necessarily about who came through the door, but have you delivered what you said you would?
11.7 In response to a question it was explained that the caseload level was not yet where the DCS would wish it to be.
11.8 He reiterated that sufficient resources were available – what was required was to stabilise the workforce.
11.9 The committee was informed that it was expected that the next Ofsted monitoring visit would focus on the areas of weakness identified at the time of the inspection eg. the MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub).