Ofsted criticises council where some social workers hadn’t had supervision for ‘months’

Social workers have high caseloads, are working on evenings and weekends and in some case haven’t had supervision for “months”, an Ofsted inspection of Wakefield children’s services has found.

The focused visit of the council’s front door services, published last week, said there were “significant gaps in frontline management and social work staffing throughout the service”.

“A significant number of social workers who spoke to inspectors said their morale is low and that they regularly work evenings and weekends. There are high sickness rates, and some workers state that there are increasing numbers of social workers leaving to work elsewhere.”

Ofsted said the services faced “significant challenges” managing the volume of work and that the service and partner agencies did not agree on thresholds.

“Since December 2017, the response time in actioning referrals within one working day has improved from 43% to 82%. However, this has resulted in the number of referrals being passed to the struggling social work locality teams doubling: from 66 per week at the beginning of January to 130 in the week prior to the focused visit.”

Unallocated cases

Because of demand there was a high number of unallocated cases and delayed assessments.

“Inspectors raised issues in about 10% of the cases they looked at and found that the quality of recordings was so poor in some instances that it was not possible to identify what work had been undertaken,” inspectors said.

They also heard how some social workers had gone “months” between supervision meetings.

Senior managers and the council were aware of the issues and had taken “some positive steps” to address the concerns – 29 agency staff had been recruited to try and address staffing issues, and the service had put on training and supervision for all workers. However due to work pressures social workers had been unable to attend.

Inspectors said the council should prioritise fixing delays in case allocation which had left children at risk of harm and improving management oversight and social work recording.

It added: “There needs to be a sufficient number of experienced social workers, managers and senior managers, who in turn need to be suitably deployed to ensure a robust social work response to children and families.”


Merran McRae, chief executive of Wakefield Council, said: “It is absolutely clear that we must improve some key areas of this service and that we must do it quickly.

The council had allocated £1 million to drive its transformation action plan and invested an extra £3.5 million into the budget of children’s services, she said. McRae added that there was new leadership in children’s services and the council had developed a partnership with North Yorkshire’s children’s services to guide improvements and is learning best practice from Leeds.

“The council has been upfront and honest about the challenges we are facing and the Ofsted inspectors have acknowledged our openness. The inspectors know that we have plans in place to address the concerns,” she said.

“Our frontline social care teams are fully committed to providing the best service they can. Their need for more support and the need for more social workers on the ground is one of the key issues we are focussed on tackling as swiftly as possible.”

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4 Responses to Ofsted criticises council where some social workers hadn’t had supervision for ‘months’

  1. Sw111 March 26, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

    It’s good that the high caseload, low morale of social workers was acknowledged by the local authority. In one of the local authority, the management is dismissive, offers poor support and defensive, try to protect themselves, over here the supervision is there but it is counterproductive as the management has control over what they pout in the supervision records. Management is the main stumbling block to good practice and performance.

  2. JPPrior March 27, 2018 at 4:35 pm #

    Acknowledgment is not action. In my experience supervision is often another word for allocation of more cases to an already overloaded worker , with little or no attempt to ‘ weight’ those cases in regard to complexity or volatility. Supervision records should be shared before agreement as accurate minutes of a meeting. In my experience this rarely happens now.

  3. L A worker 2 March 28, 2018 at 11:20 pm #

    Acknowledgement is the first step however these workers need support to get on top of their work, up to date and to be confident the children they are working are safe. Councils forget that the weight of feeling that children are not safe leads to stress and emotional poor health. Stress leads to high sickness and this leads to more sickness. Supervision is very important but note the report talks about insufficient capacity in management.

  4. Sw111 March 29, 2018 at 3:23 pm #

    The quality of supervision is important, workers can have regular supervision but if it is oppressive where the worker is criticised, devalued and made to feel lacking, it is counterproductive. Unfortunately, supervision these days is mere an exercise for the management to cover themselves, overload workers and offer no support.