Staff changes slowing improvement in care
CHILD protection care provided by Gloucestershire’s children’s services department is not improving quickly enough according to Ofsted inspectors.
The education watchdog judged Gloucestershire County Council has made improvements since the service was ruled inadequate, but significant turnover of staff and social work vacancies are impacting on the “consistencyand quality of practice”.
The authority said it remains committed to improving the services.
January’s inspection marks the fifth monitoring visit since the inadequate rating in March 2017.
Inspectors found there is “strong political commitment to and significant financial investment” in children’s services, but said the authority is making insufficient progress.
They found the authority struggles to recruit and retain qualified and experienced social work staff.
The report said: “While the local authority has been successful in estab- lishing a permanent senior leadership team and a stable frontline team manager group, it continues to struggle to recruit and retain sufficient suitably qualified and experienced social work staff.
“Too many children and young people experience frequent changes of social worker, and this impacts negatively on the progression of plans.”
The inspectors added that the majority of social workers have manage able case loads, are positive about working for the county council, feel supported by line managers and “value the visibility and accessibility of senior managers”.
Since March 2017 the council hasfocused on recruitment schemes such as Government apprenticeships, hiring University graduates and recruiting staff from overseas.
But a turnover rate of more than 30 per cent has harmed the “development of trusting relationships and progress”, inspectors said.
They found more than two thirds of children experienced a change of social worker in the last six months, 10 per cent of children have had three or more social workers in the past six months and more than 80 per cent ave had three or more during their involvement with children’s social care.
The authority overspent on the department by £9million last year because of expensive out-of-county placements and agency staff.
Councillor Richard Boyles (C, Blakeney and Bream), cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We are making improvements as fast as we can.
“We remain committed to improving our children’s services and this latest report from Ofsted reflects this.
“We know more needs to be done, and we are taking action to make the improvements as fast as we can.”
He continued: “We know our strengths and our weaknesses which is why during their latest monitoring visit we asked Ofsted to focus on the areas we know we still need to improve, including our services for young people in need of help and protection, in care and as care leavers.
“The recruitment and retention of social workers remains our main challenge and a key focus going forward.
“This is fundamental to make sure we offer consistent help and support.”
Councillor Colin Hay (LD, All Saints and Oakley), his party’s spokesman for children and families, said the report has “numerous long-known failings still going unresolved.”
He said: “We recognise that improving the standard of Gloucestershire’s Children’s Services was always going to be a long-term project.
“Two years after the inadequate assessment, this report remains disappointing, with numerous long-known failings still going unresolved.
“The very high turnover of staff means too many children are seeing frequent changes of social worker.
“Too many young people are still seeing delays in being initially seen, with continuing delays in the identification, and response to, escalating risk.
“While there are some significant improvements on the ground, the Conservative administration must work harder to mitigate against these most significant failings.”
Labour group leader Councillor Lesley Williams (Stonehouse) said: “The county council is suffering from long term underfunding when the Tory administration saw these children’s services as an easy source of cost savings.
“It is being difficult to persuade social workers that Gloucestershire is a welcoming place to come and work and be part of a service which is striving to improve beyond all recognition.”
Councillor Colin Hay
Councillor Richard Boyles
Councillor Lesley Williams