Social workers in improving council ‘do not always have the level of skills and experience required’, Ofsted finds

Despite increased number of management posts, council still has high vacancy and turnover rates among staff

improving quality
Photo: Jakub Jirsak

The quality of social work practice is “variable” in an ‘inadequate’ children’s service, despite overall improvements, Ofsted inspectors have said.

The monitoring visit to Gloucestershire’s children’s services found, while senior management was providing “clear direction” and there continued to be “significant financial investment”, too many children were experiencing delays in achieving permanence, and children in care were experiencing drift and delay.

While the council had increased the number of management posts to support social workers, there continued to be a high vacancy rate and turnover of staff, Ofsted said.

Despite most social workers now having manageable caseloads, inspectors found they “do not always have the level of skills and experience required to recognise and provide effective interventions for children’s complex needs”.

Managers had regular oversight and supervision with staff, but there was not yet “sufficient challenge or direction” and they “too often” failed to address “deficits in practice”.

Technology to enable flexible working

Introducing technology to enable flexible working had improved the working environment for social workers, Ofsted said, and they were found to be highly committed to children, with cases leading to improvements in children’s circumstances and outcomes.

“During this monitoring visit, inspectors saw a number of examples of social workers working tenaciously to secure the best outcomes for children, with positive results. Clear forward planning, engagement with professionals and effective coordination of services by social workers are making a difference for children,” the report said.

It added that staff morale had improved since the last monitoring visit, and social workers were positive about the measures that had been introduced.

Chris Spencer, director of children’s services in Gloucestershire, welcomed the feedback and was glad Ofsted had started to see improvements.

“Keeping children in Gloucestershire safe is our number one priority and we are determined to make sure that children are safe and supported. Realistically, this is a two-year process to get us up to ‘good’ level and I’m grateful to the staff for all their work to date.”

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