Ofsted inspectors have praised the ‘outstanding’ leadership in an authority that increased its number of frontline social workers by a third.
An inspection report into children’s services in Merton, published today, rated the authority ‘good’ overall, but praised ‘outstanding’ leadership and adoption performance.
It highlighted how a service redesign, which introduced a “flatter” management structure, and an extra £1 million of funding each year for the past three years had enabled the council to increase the number of frontline social workers by 33%.
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This meant manageable caseloads, smaller teams and tighter management oversight, inspectors said.
The redesign included changes to the workload of the council’s multi-agency safeguarding hub and safeguarding teams and the creation of a dedicated permanence service. A new IT and case recording system had also been introduced.
Ofsted said the leadership and management helped create a “lively, challenging and rewarding environment for social workers”.
“Strong frontline managers, carefully managed workloads and an evidence-informed approach create time for social workers to practise creative and effective direct work with children. This leads to well-crafted assessments and interventions, which are concentrated on understanding and improving the experiences of children,” the inspection report found.
It added that managers provided “a strong culture of learning” and the council’s use of innovative and creative thinking allows it to get “maximum impact” from available resources.
“This includes a coherent practice model to assist social workers in their analysis, manageable caseloads, frequent supervision, reflective auditing and mature partnerships.
“This results in an environment in which social work practice continues to develop and flourish despite a turnover of staff,” the report said.
Inspectors found Merton had a “restless ambition” to develop better practice, and provided opportunities for staff to learn new approaches.
Despite a “supportive and dynamic professional environment”, social worker turnover was 25%, and a small number of children were experiencing too many changes of social worker.
However, it said the council was aware of the small number of issues it had and were actively working to address them.