Ofsted inspectors have criticised the slow progress at an ‘inadequate’ children’s services where supervision “rarely challenges poor practice”, despite the council providing training for managers.
In a monitoring visit to South Gloucestershire children’s services, inspectors said the training had not improved the quality of supervision records.
Ofsted found the records did not contain “consistent, comprehensive and purposeful action plans to benefit social work practice”.
“Although regular management oversight of social work practice is well established, it is predominantly focused on process compliance and task completion and rarely challenges poor practice,” inspectors said.
Progress is ‘too slow’
South Gloucestershire was rated ‘inadequate’ in February 2017 and inspectors said progress to improve practice had been too slow.
“The quality of audits seen on this visit was poor and shows significant decline since the previous monitoring visit,” the report said.
Child protection plans were “poorly written” and “difficult for parents to understand”, the report said, while adding that the purpose and timescale of actions was not always clear, which made it difficult to “hold parents or agencies to account”.
“Most children’s records are unclear as to the purpose or outcome of a child protection visit, and recording, when done by social workers, focuses predominantly on adults’ issues. As a result, despite the time taken listening to children, their lived experience is not always fully understood,” the report said.
However, Ofsted noted that social workers’ caseloads had reduced since the last monitoring visit, and staff reported being positive about working for the service and morale was good.
“Social workers consistently report good management support, manageable workloads and regular supervision that identifies their training needs. They have access to a variety of good quality training and their managers support them to attend.
“They recognise the need for significant improvement in service provision,” it said.
Inspectors concluded: “While the local authority’s detailed action plan sets appropriate priorities and actions, required improvements to practice have not yet been achieved.”
Jon Hunt, cabinet member for children and young people, said there was still a significant amount of work to do, but staff were working “very hard” to make the changes needed.
“It’s pleasing that Ofsted recognise we have taken appropriate action to ensure that all social workers have manageable caseloads and there are no children without a social worker. Inspectors also found that our social workers consistently report good management support and regular supervision to identify their training needs,” Hunt said.
“Noticeable improvements in the quality of practice with children who go missing from home was also recognised as an area where progress is being made, and we can and will build on this momentum.”
He added the council had invested in a new software system to replace existing electronic casework tracking, which he believed would “bring about significant improvements to the way cases are managed”.