By Katherine Purvis
A restructure of children’s services at Cambridgeshire county council has not produced a more stable workforce, a focused visit by Ofsted has found.
The inspection found several positives – such as meaningful relationships between social workers and children and their families – but a report of the visit warned that high staff turnover and “significantly high caseloads” in some areas were affecting the continuity of support.
“Where there are difficulties and delays in recruiting suitably qualified and experienced social workers, some children are not seen regularly [enough] and they experience too many changes in social workers,” inspectors said, adding that “some children’s records are not up to date”.
Ofsted said senior leaders knew the service well, were aware of high caseloads and that action had been taken in the past three months to address caseload numbers.
Social workers, managers and clinicians were found to be confident, capable and know their children well.
“They are supported well by consultant social workers and senior managers, with access to a good quality, appropriate training opportunities provided in different formats to meet individual learning styles and availability,” the report said.
The council reorganised its children’s services to a district-based structure 12 months ago but as the model had not been delivered consistently across all districts, it was difficult for leaders to assess its impact for children, the report noted.
Inspectors focused on the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and subject to a child protection plan and found “strong partnership working ensures that children in Cambridgeshire are protected”.
The report added that, despite delays, assessments of children and families were of good quality, and children’s plans demonstrated a range of professionals working productively together.
“Evidence of direct work with children and parents demonstrates some positive outcomes; however, this is not always promptly uploaded to the child’s record,” inspectors said.
Ofsted told the council to improve social workers’ and managers’ understanding of expected timescales and recruit “suitably qualified and experienced social work staff”.
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, executive director for people and communities said: “I would like to thank all the staff who made the inspection team feel really welcome. Inspectors recognised that we have a passionate team of staff and managers who work hard to ensure that the children of Cambridgeshire are protected and speak very positively about the children that they work with.”
The council acknowledged that areas for development include “a continued and sustained focus on the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified and experienced social workers, which along with other initiatives, will help to address high staff caseloads and ensure that expected timescales are consistently met.”