Progress made but change still needed to help most vulnerable children
By Andrew Merrell | 11th June 2018
Improvements to the "inadequate" care of children in Gloucestershire are happening, but there remains "urgent need" to tackle how it deals with some of the most vulnerable.
Two shocking Ofsted reports in quick succession critical of Gloucestershire County Council's failure to look after children have been followed-up by a third visit from the inspectors.
This time around makes for better reading with Ofsted clear the local authority is making many steps forward, from staff moral and increased resources to more robust practices and better management.
But in what is a complex picture it still highlights failing in the care of some of the most vulnerable children.
"There is an urgent need to ensure rigour in the completion of risk assessments, particularly when accommodating children with highly complex needs and those who have been sexually abused, to avoid further trauma to them or other children in placement, and to ensure that that their needs are fully understood and provided for," said Nicola Bennet, Her Majesty's Inspector for Ofsted, in a letter to Chris Spencer, director of children's services at the county council.
There was also concern over the time it takes to access the needs of children in care.
Mr Spencer was appointed in March this year to help improve the council's lot and those it seeks to support.
Ofsted's report from September 2017, following one in June of the same year, found "serious and widespread failures" in children's services, rating them inadequate and saying change was "too slow".
"The local authority is making progress in improving services for children and young people. However, too many children continue to experience drift and delay in the assessment, planning and provision of services to meet their needs," said Ms Bennet.
"The director of children's services, together with the senior management team, is providing clear direction and embedding a programme for improvement, which has resulted in some recent demonstrable improvements in practice.
"There continues to be significant financial investment and additional resourcing by the council in children's services, and this investment is beginning to demonstrate improved service provision and outcomes for children."
Ofsted looked at the likes of the quality of practice in delivering good outcomes for children in care in the 11 to 25 service, the effectiveness of assessment, planning and intervention for children in care, the quality of decision making and management and staff supervision.
The letter also noted staff morale was improving.
Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "I've been really impressed by the impact of the new management in children's services and am pleased that this has been reflected in the feedback from Ofsted.
"There's more to do, we know that and we aren't shying away from it, but I am confident we will get the service up to the standards we want and the county's children and young people deserve."
Mr Spencer said: "We welcome this feedback and are glad Ofsted have seen some improvements that are starting to have an impact on children.
"Keeping children in Gloucestershire safe is our number one priority and we are determined to make sure that children are safe and supported. Realistically, this is a two-year process to get us up to 'Good' level and I'm grateful to the staff for all their work to date."
A spokesman for Ofsted told Punchline-Gloucester.com: "We will carry out monitoring visits to Gloucestershire County Council children's services about every three months. We are set to undertake a full inspection, under the single inspection framework, in about a year's time.
"However, if we believe the pace of change is insufficient then that inspection can be brought forward."
To read a full copy of the letter visit Monitoring visit of Gloucestershire children's services
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