Ofsted: Well-supported social workers improve child outcomes

Social workers who are supported by “accessible” and “visible” senior managers do improve outcomes for children, according to Ofsted.

Social workers who are supported by “accessible” and “visible” senior managers improve outcomes for children, Ofsted has found.

Published today, a report by the watchdog, ‘High expectations, high support and high challenge‘, examined how senior managers in 14 local authorities provided support to their frontline staff, based on the cases of 38 children on child protection plans.

Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector John Goldup praised social workers for doing “an incredibly difficult job, often in very stressful circumstances” and said he hoped the report provides “valuable insight into the best ways of supporting front-line staff in their roles”.

When social workers were well-supported the children they worked with became safer, healthier and happier, the report found. The children also became less anxious and began to receive more effective support from their wider families.

Good line management support was found to be particularly important at three key points in a case: deciding whether a child protection plan is needed; making the plan; and deciding whether the plan should be discontinued.

Quality support helped social workers to recognise, and challenge, parents who were not engaging with child protection plans, the report found.

It also helped front-line staff to feel more confident about managing risks and more focused and assertive.

Local authorities that effectively supported their frontline staff shared a ‘no blame’ approach, had high expectations for their service and valued productive, professional relationships, Ofsted found. They invested in a stable and secure workforce and ensured their staff could remain with the authority.

Supportive councils set out clear expectations for supervision and helped their staff to critically analyse their practice and manage the emotional impact of their work.

Social workers surveyed identified a number of factors they believed prevented them from providing high-quality support to families, including a lack of time, limited resources and high caseloads. 

Ofsted will deliver its first annual social care lecture today, exploring the tensions between social care inspection as a bureaucratic burden and a force for improvement.

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