Purpose of the report: This report provides an update on the findings from the Ofsted Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) that took place in January 2022. The feedback from Ofsted, including further detail not published in the final inspection report, is included here along with an outline of the next steps that the Council’s Children’s Services are taking in response.
Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families
Matt Ansell, Director – Safeguarding and Family Resilience
Key points raised in the discussion:
1. A Member asked for the witnesses’ assessment of why the progress from an inadequate judgement had been slow and asked whether the Service was aiming to reach outstanding as agreed by a motion at Council. The Cabinet Member responded that it was important to be realistic and look at the judgement in the context of the whole Council. There was a long history of inadequacy, and it took the appointment of the current Chief Executive and the previous Director of Children’s Services to provide a clear and detailed plan for a turnaround. The journey was consistent with other local authorities. The monitoring visits demonstrated the improvement over time and the impact of the pandemic could not be underestimated. The staff were committed to achieving an outstanding Ofsted judgement.
2. A Member asked whether there would be any key performance indicators (KPIs) to enable the Committee to track progress and queried the lack of due dates and interim targets in the plan. The Cabinet Member explained that there was a substantial amount of performance data information, and it was for the Committee to decide how much they wished to receive.
3. A Member queried the ratio of permanent to agency staff and asked why problems persisted with recording and evaluating information. The Director shared that there was an increase in the amount of permanent, qualified social workers in Surrey but 30% of the current case holder social workers were agency staff and there were around 130-140 vacancies. Nationally, there was a shortage of social workers, the Council had doubled its cohort of newly qualified social workers and were hoping to build on this in the following year. The Member asked about the work to improve the performance of supervising managers. The Director explained that all front-line staff and managers had the opportunity to be trained in motivational interviewing. There were also workshops looking at how leaders supported and embedded principles on working with families and supporting staff.
4. In response to a question on the differing terms used by internal and external communications in relation to Ofsted judgements, the Director explained that internally Children’s Services was using the term ‘excellence’ which was equivalent to Ofsted’s use of ‘outstanding’. The Member noted that at Council it was agreed for the Council to use the same wording for internal and external communications. The Cabinet Member clarified that the ambition was to become an outstanding authority and emphasised the importance of partnership working to achieve this.
5. The Member also asked about the lack of transformational changes included in the improvement plan. The Director clarified that the Service did not need to change the direction of travel, rather it was about embedding practices instead. The Impower organisation had been commissioned to carry out of a piece of work to look at how to bring out the changes required. The report had been published and the Service were considering the recommendations and aligning them with timescales and KPIs. The Director added that there were extensive performance dashboards which were regularly scrutinised, and the Service could look at how to make this presentable for Members.
1. The Select Committee to receive a further update on the progress made delivering the children’s services ‘Achieving Excellence’ programme in Autumn 2022.