Social work caseloads ‘manageable’ after council restructure – Ofsted

Ofsted rates York's children's services as 'good' overall and the local safeguarding children's board as 'outstanding'

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A restructure of children’s services in York has led to social workers having “small and manageable” caseloads that allow them to do more direct work with children, Ofsted has found.

The regulator rated York’s children’s services as ‘good’ overall and the local safeguarding children’s board as ‘outstanding’ in an inspection report published today. Child protection services were rated as ‘requires improvement’.

Inspectors found a wholescale restructuring of children’s services in 2016, including the introduction of a new electronic recording system, had led to “clear improvements” in outcomes for most children across the services.

There was “clear evidence” the reduced social worker caseloads were allowing social workers to carry out more direct work with children, Ofsted found.

However, too many assessments were still delayed, with a case audit carried out during the inspection revealing 49% of children had not received a “timely assessment of their needs”. Some frontline managers failed to identify when staff were failing to carry out assessments in time, the report added.

Senior managers at the council attributed the assessment delays to staff shortages prior to the restructure and the poor performance of some staff and managers.

Inspectors praised the council’s commitment to workforce planning and training and development for staff, noting it had resulted in high retention rates.

“There are no agency staff in management posts at the time of inspection, and managers invest in staff progression, recognising that a skilled and confident workforce is crucial to supporting change and promoting good social work practice,” the report said.

Ofsted found “highly effective” links between children’s services and the local safeguarding children board and health and wellbeing boards. “Outstanding” work by the council and its partners, led by the safeguarding children board, had delivered effective referral and assessment processes for children at risk of child sexual exploitation.

Inspectors found children in care were well supported by the council. Adoption services were also deemed to be strong, with a “relentless focus” on securing the right placement” for children.

Jon Stonehouse, York’s director of children’s services, said the inspection rating was a “significant achievement” at a time of “great challenge” for social care.

He said: “It is testament to the skill and commitment of children’s social workers, social care staff, their managers and a highly effective local partnership.

“It is so important to all of us to know we are doing the best job possible, we are never complacent and welcome every opportunity to reflect on the quality of the services we provide.

“While we are delighted with the outcome of this very testing inspection we will also be paying close attention also to those areas where we know we have more to do.”

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