Ofsted’s latest monitoring visit to a children’s services trust has found evidence of improving leadership and “good” morale among staff.
In their first trip to Slough Children’s Services Trust since chief executive Nicola Clemo stepped down, inspectors reported that “management grip [had] increased at all levels of the service”.
Reports from the previous two visits had expressed concern about the pace of change being implemented by managers at Slough, which in 2015 became the second English children’s services department to be removed from council control.
The most recent visit in early May, which focused on children in care, found there was “still too much practice below the required standard” and that first line manager oversight remained variable.
But inspectors said weaknesses were “recognised and acknowledged” by senior managers, who had strengthened performance management systems. “Where deficits in practice are found, action plans are swiftly implemented,” they said.
The workforce at Slough was continuing to stabilise, Ofsted noted, with “increasingly constructive” relationships between social workers, managers and independent reviewing officers (IROs).
“The number of children who have had two or more social workers in the last 12 months has reduced from 38% in February 2017 to 24% in February 2018,” the report said.
Staff at all levels continued to demonstrate a commitment to improving outcomes for children, it added.
Since the previous monitoring visit, carried out in January, practice around bringing children into care had become “timelier”, inspectors said. This included assessments of family members as family and friends carers and special guardians.
IROs were also beginning to have an impact on challenging and guiding children’s plans, Ofsted found.
“IROs meet regularly with children and social workers, both in and outside of reviews,” the monitoring report said. “The timeliness of children looked after reviews and the level of participation by children in their reviews are much improved.”
Among areas for improvement, inspectors noted a lack of consistency in case records and care plans. Supervision was “still not effective enough” in some cases to ensure all plans were progressed swiftly enough, they said.
Responding to the monitoring report, interim chief executive Andrew Bunyan said he was “delighted” by the progress that had been identified.
“We know there are areas which still need addressing, in terms of consistency, management oversight and the quality of detail included in children’s care plans, but we’re definitely getting there,” Bunyan said.
“This is the first monitoring visit where all the previous hard work we’ve put in is starting to pay off and is clearly evident in our practice,” he added.
The monitoring visit was Ofsted’s last to Slough before carrying out a new full inspection.