The Ofsted interview: ‘We needed to invest in systemic practice’

How one council achieved a 'good' Ofsted rating through direct work in improving the presence of the voice of the child, creating a culture of support for social workers and performance management

Calderdale council’s “strong and effective” management has led to improvements in both the quality and impact of social work practice, with the council having secured a ‘good’ rating overall in its latest Ofsted inspection at the end of 2018.

Ofsted highlighted the council’s children in care and care leavers service, which the watchdog judged to be ‘outstanding’, and permanence in the council was said to be a “significant strength”.

“Children and young people have consistent and enduring relationships with committed, skilled and  determined social workers, pathway advisors and managers. They have the benefit of caring professionals who work extremely well together, helping children to remain safe and achieve well,” inspectors said.

During its inspection, the regulator highlighted two areas of practice potentially impacting adversely on some children in need, but Ofsted highlighted that the council’s senior leadership took “decisive action to immediately to address inspectors’ concerns”.

In the latest of Community Care’s Ofsted Interview podcast series, Calderdale council’s director of children’s and young people services, Julie Jenkins, discusses the improvement actions the council has taken, how social workers work with the Calderdale Therapeutic Team, and how the council has developed a supportive culture for its staff.

Listen to the interview featuring Jenkins discussing Calderdale 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: Calderdale council

Area of service Ofsted inspection findings 2018
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Requires improvement:Improving the voice of children has been a priority. This is captured well in direct work and conducted routinely by staff across all teams. Children’s wishes and feelings are consistently well considered and used to inform assessments, plans and reviews. Children are supported to present their views in child protection conferences and other meetings through widely available advocacy support. Social workers know their children well as they are seen regularly, and, when appropriate, alone.
The experience and progress of children who need help and protection Requires improvement:Some plans focus too much on the needs of adults. This reduces the emphasis on the child’s experience, making it difficult to measure whether children’s circumstances have changed. When parenting is not improving, or engagement is poor, particularly for some children experiencing long-term neglect, too much energy is spent on encouraging parental engagement. Prompt action within the child’s timeframe is not always taken quickly enough by social workers and their managers for children in need and those subject to child protection plans.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Outstanding:Managers, pathway advisers and social workers in the commissioned ‘pathways’ team provide exceptional service 24 hours a day. They are passionate about their young people and talk with great pride about their achievements. Young people were positively glowing about the support they receive. They described to inspectors how they are treated ‘like family’ and how staff ‘go the extra mile’ for them. Transition planning starts early in Calderdale, at the age of 15. This maximises opportunities for children to build meaningful and trusting relationships with their workers.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers Outstanding:Clinical expertise and advice are embedded throughout the service via the impressive Calderdale Therapeutic Team. Social workers make good use of the skills of CTS in helping them to think creatively about how best to work with children. The team, which includes clinical psychological support, are co- 8 located in the fostering and adoption teams, providing consultation, advice and support to all carers. Work is well targeted to help to increase carers’ emotional resilience and practical skills in caring for vulnerable children, particularly those with complex needs. As a result, placement stability is improving.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Good:Services for children are protected and have increased in times of austerity, with ongoing political financial commitment. Leaders have a good understanding of children’s services through regular reports to scrutiny, performance interrogation and regular meetings between the director of children services (DCS), chief executive and lead member. The chief executive and newly appointed DCS are visible leaders and are fervent supporters of Calderdale’s children and young people.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Good:Reduced staff turnover and manageable caseloads provide social workers with the opportunities to build trusting relationships with children and their families in order to help make the necessary changes. Individual and group supervision is regular, reflective and focuses well on those tasks needing to be accomplished. Management oversight is tight and clear.
Overall effectiveness Good:Senior managers have created a culture in which staff feel safe and valued, enabling social work to flourish. Progress is considerable and sustained, leading to mostly good outcomes for the majority of children in care and care leavers. Children are at the heart of decision-making, and they influence and shape practice and services. Corporate parenting and grandparenting are significant strengths in Calderdale.
Overall effectiveness Good:Despite a strengthened understanding of frontline practice through embedded performance management and improving quality assurance, managers and leaders were not aware of two areas of practice impacting adversely on some children in need of help and protection until this inspection. They took decisive action immediately to address inspectors’ concerns.
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