Council’s poor management of social workers led to ‘drift and delay’, Ofsted finds

The quality of child protection investigations were also found to be 'variable'

Poor management oversight has caused “drift and delay” for children referred to social care staff in Dorset, Ofsted inspectors have found.

Child protection investigations and reports to initial child protection conferences were also of “variable” quality, inspectors found. This was related to “the quality of the management oversight and direction given to social workers”.

The council was given an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’, with adoption performance the only area of the council receiving a ‘good’ rating. Children in need of help and protection, looked-after children, care leaver services and the council’s leadership all required improvement.

Lack of experience

Ofsted were told plans were in place to improve first-line management for social workers, but at the time of inspection managers were found to lack experience.

“On appointment two years ago, the director inherited a staffing structure in which social work team managers had just been replaced with practice managers. As individuals, many are capable managers but, as a whole, they lack the depth of experience of more established team managers,” the report found.

It added: “While inspectors found no children left at immediate risk of significant harm, this lack of consistency means that some wait longer than they should to see a social worker, to have their needs assessed and to receive services.”

Rigour and focus

Although many child protection investigations were good, a small amount were “very poor”, inspectors found, and some investigations lacked “rigour and focus”.

“Social workers do not always consider historical factors sufficiently, see children alone or consider their views and experiences carefully enough,” inspectors said.

Strong leadership was provided by the director of children’s services and her senior team, Ofsted said, and the adoption service was rated ‘good’. However, plans to improve the services were either not yet in place or had been too recently implemented to have made a sustained difference.

Most social workers in the council knew the children they were working with well, but this was not always reflected in assessments, the report said.

Rebecca Knox, the council’s cabinet member for children’s safeguarding, welcomed the report’s acknowledgement of the progress made since the new leadership team was appointed in 2014, but said improvements were still needed.

“Vigorous plans have already been implemented to ensure we continue on our improvement journey and I remain, as do children’s services staff, committed to ensuring all children in Dorset receive the best possible service,” Knox said.

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