Care is improving at a set of children’s services that ministers decided should be removed from local authority control two years ago, according to Ofsted.
A monitoring report on Slough children’s services, which were shifted into an independent trust under government direction in October 2015, found the trust had “stepped up the pace of improvement”. Referral arrangements were better and responses to safeguarding and child sexual exploitation had improved, inspectors found.
The introduction of social work hubs, where cases are co-worked by teams headed up by a consultant social worker with a mix of senior social workers, newly qualified staff, child and family workers and a clinician, had also improved the early response to need and risk within families. In new hubs agency social worker rates had dropped to around 20% compared to 50% across the trust.
Ofsted said that the changes needed to be “carefully reviewed” going forward, warning that some cases had the wrong balance between reflective group supervision and “decisive management direction and oversight”. But it found social work caseloads were now manageable and no cases were unallocated.
Good social work
Nicola Clemo, chief executive of the children’s trust, told Community Care the hubs were part of efforts to create “an environment where good social work could flourish” and early feedback from staff was positive.
“Newly qualified social workers have told us they like it as it’s a really supportive environment and they’re learning all the time from the senior social workers, the consultant social worker and the clinician,” she said.
“The risk is shared and the interaction with families is better because you can align the skills of a social worker with the family. If you’re in a hub you can identify who around this table is good with young people or good with teenagers. It is about working systemically and working with families, not doing things to them in a punitive way. It’s strengths-based social work.”
Clemo said the trust currently has 10 hubs live across services, with another five due to launch soon. She said the trust deliberately chose a gradual introduction of the new model rather than a “big bang approach” due to the higher risk of implementing change in services that had been rated ‘inadequate’.