Ofsted praises improving council ‘purposefully’ tackling social worker workloads

Social workers also praised for showing more 'care and attention' in recording direct work

An ‘inadequate’ children’s service has been praised for improvements to services for children in care.

A monitoring visit by Ofsted inspectors of services in Reading found, social workers carefully build trust and meaningful relationships with children, and manageable caseloads were helping staff do “more structured and planned work”.

“Social workers use a range of interactive approaches to engage with children of different ages,” the report found.

It added that social workers were showing “more care and attention” in recording direct work.

‘Purposeful working environment’

Inspectors identified a “calm, purposeful working environment” and a workforce more stable than at any point since the 2016 inspection which branded the council ‘inadequate’.

“This included the safeguarding service, where significant difficulties in workloads are being purposefully addressed. Morale was positive and workloads considered manageable by social workers. Frontline managers were regarded as accessible and supportive,” the report said.

“It is positive that 64% of social workers, and 70% of frontline managers, are now permanent members of staff.

“Most third-tier management posts are now also filled with permanent members of staff. Many locum social workers have been in their posts for lengthy periods.”

Improvement in quality of direct work

Ofsted said children in care were seen by social workers regularly, and the quality of direct work was improving. However, it warned the quality of early planning for children was not consistently good enough, with some experiencing delays for permanence.

It concluded: “Progress in addressing pertinent recommendations of the 2016 inspection has been too piecemeal and fragmented, but plans for accelerating and embedding improved services for children in care are now realistic and achievable.”

Liz Terry, lead councillor for children’s services in Reading, was pleased with the positive observations made by inspectors, and thanked staff and managers for their commitment.

“Of course, we accept there are areas requiring improvement and there is still much to be done but residents should be assured there is no shortage of ambition and determination to ensure Reading’s families get the children’s services they deserve.”

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