Improvement notice issued to ‘inadequate’ children’s services

Inspectors said the relationship between management and frontline had 'broken down' in an 'inadequate' inspection

Photo: adam121/Fotolia

The Department for Education has issued an improvement notice to an ‘inadequate’ council where relationships between the frontline and management had “broken down”.

Ofsted inspectors gave a damning verdict of Gloucestershire county council’s children’s services in June, where they found “serious concerns” about the integrity of senior leadership, and frontline staff raised an “unprecedented number” of whistleblowing concerns.

Last week the Department for Education told the council to improve or face being moved into “an appropriate arrangement” to successfully improve children’s services.

As part of the improvement notice, the department has appointed an adviser, with whom the council must work while it makes improvements.

The department will also review the council’s progress against its improvement plan at least every six months until the improvement notice is withdrawn, or the department steps up its intervention.

“These reviews may cover, but are not exclusive to: culture; performance; leadership, management, and governance; workforce and management oversight; early help; and the LSCB,” the notice said.


By the time the inspection was published in June, the council had changed the leadership of children’s services and said it brought in “top social work specialists” to lead its 500 staff. Alison Williams, director of young people and families at Prospects, was appointed interim director of children’s services, and Neelam Bhardwaja was hired in an interim improvement and operations director role.

The council said it had begun investing £9.2 million into the service before Ofsted visited in February and March.

Social workers had told inspectors they were “fearful of challenging or exposing poor practice” in the council, and inspectors criticised child protection services which had “deteriorated significantly” since the council’s previous ‘inadequate’ rating in 2011.

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3 Responses to Improvement notice issued to ‘inadequate’ children’s services

  1. Carol August 15, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

    What is a top social work specialist?

    • Claire August 18, 2017 at 7:26 pm #

      Someone who gets a lot of money

  2. Joan August 16, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    Ofsted want to get back into Northumberland too, following their poor inspection 2016 where children services were deemed poor or inadequate, and they were issued with recommendations for improvements in key areas such as child protection. A new service director and senior managers have been brought in, and sadly the risks to children and families increase with continually poor service delivery. There is now a very clear culture in Northumberland Children Services of scapegoating social workers, social workers too afraid to speak out, and many experienced Social workers simply left the organisation due to poor management and poor working conditions. In Ashington after the 2016 Ofsted inspection and raising concerns about management nearly a whole team left Northumberland. Conditions remain including poor management many who belittling and bully social workers, no regular supervision, lack of support, high levels of work related stress sickness, agile working, high case loads, there is a high number of newly qualified social workers who also struggle with no support, under high case loads, and high levels of agency social workers. The interim Chief Executive only last week notified employees of Safecall a service for staff to report any concerns they may have! it was interesting to read her describing ” We want to create a culture of integrity and openness” possibly in recognition that sadly this does not exist in Northumberland, she goes on “and the confidential and independent Safecall hotline will provide an additional way for staff to raise any issues or concerns they may have. The hotline will be used alongside our internal reporting procedures, to provide an alternative for our employees who, for a number of reasons, may not wish to use the internal options”. Well it is just a bit too late because many social workers who may wish to raise concerns already feel to afraid to speak out in this oppressive organisation. Similar in Kirklees following a poor ofsted came scapegoating of Social workers and Unison supported members there in a recent strike by Social workers and another one is planned for the future (September 17) because little has changed. The same happened in Sunderland 2016 and the service there moved to a voluntary trust and improvements are slow to emerge.

    10 Years on from Baby P what has changed, social workers are still struggling under a ‘bombardment’ of cases and remain at risk of the scapegoating similar to the fate of Social workers in in the baby P case, it just continues. Including seven years of austerity and an over-emphasis on red-tape and bureaucracy which is chaining social workers to their desks and therefore putting more children at risk.

    Comments by BASW Ruth Allen (Aug 2017) who notes ” is warning of long term damage to children and families if government and local authorities do not support effective early help.“We are storing up generational problems and doing damage to children and families as a society if we do not back the provision of effective early help,” Allen’s comments follow the release of a report today from the charity, Action For Children, which claims up to 140,000 vulnerable children in England referred to social care for concerns including abuse and neglect are stuck in a ‘revolving door’ of assessment and re-referral.

    “On the back of the recent report from the Children’s Commissioner on risks to vulnerable children of high thresholds for support, and the LGA report on a massive predicted deficit in children’s social care funding by 2020, here is yet another report raising very serious concerns about funding and models of service across England,” says Allen. Similar points raised by Scotland following the BBC documentary 3/8/17 “There is still an issue of too much time spent on paperwork,” said Hall. “Qualified social workers need time for reflective practice, to see what is really going on with children and parents”. And again similar message was reiterated by social worker and BASW member Melanie Adegbite in a BBC London evening news 28/7/17 that was broadcast on Heart FM, Capital FM and Smooth Radio about the death of 13-month old Noah Serra-Morrison.

    The point is unless someone supports the human and employment rights of Social workers to be treat with dignity and respect and to remain supported to practice through providing working conditions where that practice can work effectively to protect children, then there is a crisis in sight.