Agenda item


Purpose of the report:


This report provides an update on the improvement of Surrey’s children’s services, an overview of our readiness for a full Ofsted ILACS inspection, a summary of the recent Ofsted Monitoring Visit (September 2021) findings/feedback, our response and any impact on our improvement priorities.




Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families


Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families and Lifelong Learning

Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

Matt Ansell, Director – Family Resilience and Safeguarding


Key points raised in the discussion:


  1. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families introduced the report and provided context, noting the key challenges within Children’s Services and the Ofsted inspection taking place between  17 and 28 January 2022.


  1. A Member asked why the Corporate Parenting Service was confident, from the work of Creative Solutions, that No Wrong Door (NWD) would be successful. The Executive Director for Children, Families and Lifelong Learning provided an overview of the NWD programme and explained that Creative Solutions was the early work undertaken to think and work differently with young people and families, similar to the approach of NWD. The Director for Corporate Parenting explained that the work of Creative Solutions provided opportunity to train and prepare staff ahead of the introduction of NWD. The North Yorkshire County Council’s NWD accreditation process presented constructive challenge, and this provided reassurance around the success of the model. The Service was well set up in terms of collecting data and understanding the implications of NWD, and colleagues from North Yorkshire County Council would provide support in this area. A Member asked how many of the young people supported by Creative Solutions who did not enter care would have been expected to enter care without that support, and what impact on looked after children numbers was expected of NWD . The Director explained that financial predictions were based on conservative estimates based on data from North Yorkshire County Council’s NWD. Creative Solutions had engaged with 75 children in the last nine months and had finished working with 35 of those children, work with the rest of the children was ongoing. Of this cohort, only two of those children still entered the care system, which was very low compared to figures from previous years.


  1. In response to a question on the first NWD hub, the Director for Corporate Parenting shared that the hub was on track to open in January 2022, a staff restructure had been completed and recruitment to additional posts had taken place, whilst there were a few vacancies still to fill, including foster carers. The Member also asked about the progress of the ‘getting to good’ phase of the children’s improvement programme and inspection readiness. The Executive Director explained that the ongoing Ofsted  inspection of Children’s Services would provide an answer regarding service improvement. The compilation of evidence in preparation for the inspection had illuminated the considerable progress made during the previous phase of improvement between the 2018 inspection and 2020 . The Executive Director stated that significant positive feedback had been received regarding improvement, but acknowledged that there were still areas where the Service needed to improve further in order to receive a grading of Good.


  1. The Member asked about the challenges of engaging educational settings in Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2) training, the timescale for the complete rollout of GCP2 and how the council monitored the application of the GCP2. The Executive Director explained that the GCP2 was being utilised by practitioners and its use as evidenced in referrals through the front-door, which were monitoredby the Neglect Sub-Group and Children’s Safeguarding Partnership. The Director for Family Resilience and Safeguarding noted the effectiveness of using GCP2 as an intervention tool with families at an early stage and could provide an update in the future on how the tool was being used.


  1. A Member enquired about the job design of the personal advisor workforce. The Executive Director explained that personal advisors provided practical support for them to engage with adult life. Issues related to a lack of continuity for young people when personal advisors were absent. There had been a redesign of the duty arrangements to provide continuity of support for young people. The Director for Corporate Parenting added that the Ofsted focused visit to the Leaving Care Service came at a time of abnormally high vacancies and the overall turnover for permanent personal advisors was relatively low.


  1. A Member asked about care leavers living outside of Surrey and their access to mental health support. The Executive Director explained that care leavers living outside of Surrey often lacked knowledge of local mental health services, but their personal advisors should help them to navigate the local system. In the long-term, there was an aspiration to support more young people within Surrey. The Director for Corporate Parenting added that most care leavers would experience mental health issues at some point in their adult life. Many of these young people were in neighbouring counties and local authorities and their personal advisors could connect them to local teams. The Member highlighted anecdotal evidence of personal advisors lacking the knowledge to effectively support service users outside of Surrey.


  1. In response to a question on the council losing contact with looked after children and care leavers, the Director for Corporate Parenting explained that there was statutory responsibility owed to former looked after children up to 21 years of age, which was extended to 25 years of age by the Children and Social Work Act 2017. Some young people would decide at age 21 that they no longer want to remain in contact with the council and sometimes they changed their mind following that decision. Care leavers were reminded that contact remained available if they changed their mind. The Executive Director shared that 90% of young adult care leavers had experienced two-way contact in the last 12 weeks. Of the 83 young adults who had not experienced contact in the last 12 weeks, there were 19 that the Corporate Parenting Service was not in touch with at all.


  1. A Member asked for further detail on the pie chart included on page 29 of the report which rated 25% of children with disabilities (CWD) cases as red following a review. The Executive Director explained that this data came from a bigger report and cases were rated as red for different reasons, including practice not yet meeting a child’s needs and children not meeting the CWD Service’s threshold. For examples, families sometimes tried to see their child supported by the CWD Service, when their needs could be more appropriately met by other teams. External reviews had taken place to ensure the needs of each child were being met.


  1. The Member also asked about Phase 3 and 4 of improvement initiatives and their impact on the rate of staff turnover. The Executive Director shared that Children’s Services recruitment and retention efforts had started to pay off in maintaining the level of permanent workforce, although there was still work required to reduce the use of agency staff and to retain senior-level practitioners. Additionally, the Member queried comments on the impact of the inadequate Ofsted grading on staff recruitment made at a previous meeting. The Executive Director explained that it often depended on the stage an individual was in their career, as a newly qualified social worker may not want to begin their career in an inadequate local authority. This view was confirmed by a Community Care Survey which found that it was more likely for a social worker to think twice before joining a local authority graded inadequate than previously. The Director for Family Resilience and Safeguarding explained that the children’s workforce was stabilising and the workforce strategy was in the process of being refreshed and this could come to the Select Committee for scrutiny. The Cabinet Member added that this challenge was found across the wider children’s workforce and partner organisations, such as recruitment of youth workers.  


Alex Tear left the meeting at 11:57.



The Select Committee noted the report and its recommendations. 




i.              The Director for Corporate Parenting to provide the number of care leavers located outside of Surrey and of those, the number requiring mental health support.


Supporting documents: