Council services protecting most vulnerable children still 'not good enough'
By Andrew Merrell | 29th May 2019
More than a year after being found to be 'seriously failing' Gloucestershire's most vulnerable children the county council's services are still "not yet good enough".
In March 2018 Ofsted gave the local authority its worst rating and said it found "serious and widespread failures" which were putting children at risk.
It was a damning report - made worse because it found the quality of support to families had "deteriorated significantly" since 2011 when some of the council's services also received an "inadequate" rating.
As a result of its poor track record Ofsted visits every three months to inspect progress, and has just released its verdict on its sixth such visit - in which it notes progress is being made, but slowly.
"The local authority is making slow progress in improving services for its children and young people," said Nicola Bennett, Her Majesty's Inspector for Ofsted.
"The senior leadership team has a clear vision and coherent improvement plan to develop and deliver high-quality services to children and families in Gloucestershire, which it is successfully implementing.
"While there are early indicators of improvements in some areas of practice, there is considerable variability across teams.
"Overall, key areas that make a difference to children's lives, such as being seen quickly, being kept safe and developing trusting relationships with social workers, are not yet good enough."
Her letter, copied to the Department for Education, added: "Morale within teams is good. Social workers are positive about the support they receive from line managers and the visibility and responsiveness of senior leaders.
"While supervision is now more regular, it is not sufficiently focused on identifying and addressing weakness in practice.
"Management oversight is not yet sufficiently rigorous or challenging to ensure that children's circumstances are improving within reasonable timescales."
"Casework audits have improved in quality, and now accurately identify strengths and weaknesses in practice.
"Audit activity has, however, yet to demonstrate a consistently positive impact on practice and outcomes for children and young people."
Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "The team continue to work hard to make the changes needed to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people in the county.
"Social workers now have all the tools of the trade they need to do their job, and with the launch of the new Social Work Academy today, we are confident that we will continue to improve practice and performance across the service."
"The senior leadership team has a vision and a plan to get there. We need to keep up the recruitment drive for permanent social workers, and work closely with teams to make sure good practice is common across all areas.
"This is fundamental to ensure we offer consistent help and support and improve the outcomes for children and young people who need our help the most."
The full report is available on the Ofsted website here .
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