The Ofsted Interview: ‘Children and families need consistency of social worker’

The importance of a stable workforce, partnerships and engagement with communities in Barnsley council's journey of improvement to 'good'

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Underpinned by political and financial investment and a “skilled and motivated workforce”, Barnsley council’s children’s services has secured an across the board rating of ‘good’ in its latest Ofsted inspection towards the end of 2018.

Ofsted highlighted the council’s “excellent” workforce stability. The watchdog reported that social workers with high caseloads felt they were able to “practise effectively” through co-allocation, supervision and “clearly evidenced” management oversight of individual cases. The regulator also noted the council’s “thorough assessments with a well-considered analysis of the risks affecting children” and its effectiveness at being a “committed and ‘pushy’ corporate parent”.

In the latest of Community Care’s Ofsted Interview podcast series, Barnsley council’s director of children’s and adults’ services, Rachel Dickinson, discusses the importance of a stable workforce and how the council has achieved a 3.9% vacancy rate and the local authority’s response to risks posed by child sexual and criminal exploitation.

Listen to the interview featuring Dickinson discussing Barnsley council’s developments and its next steps 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: Barnsley council

Area of service Ofsted inspection findings 2018
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Good: When screening identifies the need for an assessment or that risk has escalated, there is a seamless transfer of cases to the assessment team, supported by a clear management oversight. Strategy meetings are timely, well attended by relevant partners and clearly record the evidence, with an analysis of what this means for children, and a rationale given for decisions made.
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Good: Children benefit from effective legal planning when their circumstances do not improve. Pre-proceedings work is timely and well managed, with a contract of expectations that clearly spell out what parents need to do. When parents successfully engage in helping to improve their children’s lives, legal planning is ended. When improvements are not made, authoritative action is taken. This means that children are getting the right help at the right time from the right people.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Good: The stability of the social work staff team means that children benefit from established relationships with someone they know well. Sensitive and thoughtful direct work to elicit children’s wishes and feelings influences planning and interventions for children. All children in care benefit from life-story work that helps them to understand their situations. Children’s wishes and feelings are actively sought and acted on.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Good:Foster to adopt is used when appropriate to support early permanence. Social workers recognise the importance of promoting all aspects of permanence, including special guardianship, adoption, long-term fostering and a return to family. High-quality special guardianship assessments inform decisions regarding whether children can safely stay within their extended family network. Careful thought is given to the relationships of brothers and sisters in considering future permanence plans.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Good: Senior managers are held to account through a clear governance structure from the chief executive down. The involvement of the lead member, executive director and service director in practice observations and the visibility in social work teams is impressive. A range of trackers and panels have improved management oversight and help prevent drift and delay in most areas of the service, particularly in relation to achieving permanence.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Good: Workforce stability is excellent, which means that children benefit from being able to develop consistent relationships with social workers. While caseloads are high for some social workers, they feel that they can practise effectively because of co-allocation, supervision and management oversight, and a supportive service and team culture. Social workers report that they benefit from reflective supervision, although this is not always well recorded.
Overall effectiveness Good: The resolute focus on improving outcomes for children is shared across the partnership and is underpinned by political commitment and financial investment and a self-evaluation that shows that leaders know their services well.
Overall effectiveness Good: Almost all children who need help and protection receive a timely service that meets their needs. The integrated ‘front door’ is effective in managing risk and protecting children. Thorough assessments with a well-considered analysis of the risks affecting children lead, for the most part, to targeted plans and interventions which are improving outcomes and reducing risk effectively.

2 Responses to The Ofsted Interview: ‘Children and families need consistency of social worker’

  1. Suzannah Rockett January 9, 2019 at 8:59 pm #

    As someone who has worked for Barnsley nearly 19 years I can honestly say that we do practice as one team, because we all need and rely on each other’s roles to give the very best to the children and families we work with.

    The roof nearly caved in when we received our GOOD, showing a sence of true Barnsley pride. Never have I felt such pride since winning my medal at the Paralympics, where again we functioned as a team.

  2. Aminandaba Fuyana January 12, 2019 at 2:57 pm #

    Great work for Barnsley Children’s Services