The Ofsted Interview: ‘All our workers are leaders’

Hertfordshire council's journey to a 'good' Ofsted rating through its strength in multi disciplinary practice and effective staff development

Towards the end of last year, Hertfordshire council received a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted in the latest inspection of its children’s services, with its senior leadership rated “outstanding”.

The council was praised for its high-quality partnership working, particularly in its now established multi-disciplinary family safeguarding teams, the use of “top quality” performance management information, and the “wise” investment in its workforce.

The latest of Community Care’s Ofsted Interview podcast series features Hertfordshire council’s director of children’s services, Jenny Coles, discussing how the council has grounded its model of multi-disciplinary practice, its relatively new consultation hub and how it has continued to develop its staff.

Listen to the interview featuring Coles talking about Hertfordshire council’s developments below, or subscribe to the series on iTunes, and read our quick table for the key findings from Ofsted’s inspection.

Highlights from the Ofsted inspection: Hertfordshire council

Area of service Ofsted inspection findings 2018
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Good: The quality of partnership working, particularly in the multi-disciplinary family safeguarding teams, is a real strength. The presence in these teams of adult workers with a range of specialist skills, knowledge and experience provides plenty of opportunities for joint working.
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Good: Group supervision in the family safeguarding teams is, by its very nature, reflective. Inspectors saw good examples of specialist adult workers who are embedded in the family safeguarding teams using their expertise in domestic abuse, substance misuse and mental health to challenge children’s social work colleagues about the impact on children of parents’ risky behaviour. This strengthens practice.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Good: There is a strong focus on achieving permanence for children and young people in care, including by re-uniting them with their birth families if it is safe to do so. The local authority uses a range of tools to track the experience and progress of children in care. There is no evidence of significant drift or delay.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Good: Independent reviewing officers provide a good level of critical challenge. They effectively champion children’s rights, entitlements, wishes and feelings by holding others to account and chasing progress against decisions taken and action agreed. They are not afraid to use the formal escalation process when it is appropriate and necessary to do so.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Outstanding: The local authority uses top quality performance management information to manage the business of children’s social care in a purposeful, professional and child-centred way. Sophisticated use of infographics means that the information presented is easy to understand and digest. An overarching performance management report includes ‘moment in time’, ‘trend’ and ‘comparative’ data with succinct analysis, where applicable.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Outstanding : Senior leaders are conscientious in holding each other to account. Knowing that, as the chief executive likes to say, ‘bad news doesn’t get better by not talking about it’, managers are encouraged to ‘tell it how it is’. There are no secrets and no attempts to shy away from recurrent challenges, like, for example, short-term placement stability or the progress and achievement in 11 education of children in care.
Overall effectiveness Good: With adult specialist workers embedded in family safeguarding teams, the local authority’s approach to ‘Think Family’ is mature and well developed. The help and protection that most children receive has improved since the last inspection and is now good.
Overall effectiveness Good: Although proud of their achievements, and increasingly involved in supporting other authorities in the region, senior leaders remain grounded in a culture of openness, transparency and rigorous self-scrutiny. They recognise that their journey of improvement is not finished and that there is further work to do.
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