Council warned over managers who ‘support’ rather than ‘challenge’ social workers

Inspectors said Devon council's workforce is stabilising but found children were being left in neglectful situations due to a lack of challenge from managers


Inspectors have said a lack of managerial challenge is resulting in social work visits “without purpose” and practitioners not trying “something different”.

In a focused visit to Devon council’s children’s services, Ofsted praised the council’s efforts to build a stable workforce and lower caseloads, but warned supervision lacked “challenge, urgency and reflection”.

This caused, in some cases, children to be “left in neglectful situations for longer than necessary as social workers are not challenged to try something different”, the report said.

Social workers told inspectors they felt supported and had “the capacity to do purposeful social work with children”.

“However, managers support social workers rather than challenge them and this lack of scrutiny results in visits without purpose and children are not being seen in proportion to identified risk,” the report said.

Significant gaps

Inspectors said child protection and child in need plans were often “too adult-focused”, especially in cases featuring domestic abuse.

“Children in need plans are not always specific, clear or measurable and do not readily enable parents to see what needs to change, and by when, or the consequence of not achieving this,” inspectors said.

They added supervision was poorly recorded and there were “still significant gaps” between supervision sessions for some social workers.

Ofsted did praise senior leaders for focusing time and energy on improving services in Devon, which were rated ‘requires improvement’ in 2015, and added that they knew the service’s strengths and weaknesses well.

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7 Responses to Council warned over managers who ‘support’ rather than ‘challenge’ social workers

  1. Cbdh May 29, 2019 at 12:07 am #

    Visits without purpose, gee why didn’t I think of that! What would we do without Ofsted? Wow they are so learned.

  2. Disillusioned May 29, 2019 at 11:49 am #

    Challenge from the managers driven by the intention to improve services would be welcome by all the workers.

    But unfortunately majority of the managers have some issue, some agenda to undermine, and destroy the worker’s career.

    There are cases where the managers have gone out of the way to protect workers who have committed major errors that have resulted in significant harm to the child, but on some cases, the managers have been so heavy handed on clerical errors sacking the worker and reporting them to hcpc.

    If the Ofsted is giving full licence to such incompetent managers to challenge, the catastrophe that has engulfed social care will further deteriorate it.

    No wonder, social care does not command respect in the society as other professions.

    • Esther May 31, 2019 at 7:19 am #

      We need to stop the blame culture. It sounds like a systemic failure all round. You seem very much anti managers. Ofsted did not pick up any other agenda other than managers need to challenge more and they do need to do this when appropriate.The problem is managers can easily be accused of bullying. If senior managers have an agenda and the managers are not supported then its the manager is the one on the firing line and be accused of all sorts. This are the issue that need to exposed because managers will not feel confident to challenge. t’s just a matter of time before Osted pick up on this.

  3. Ed May 29, 2019 at 6:14 pm #

    This applies also when social workers fail to identify false safeguarding concerns and case build against parents and managers collude with them to do so, also. The Children Act requires managers/supervisors to question and challenge social worker assumptions.

  4. Disillusioned May 31, 2019 at 9:51 am #

    Esther, if the management is effective in bringing positive changes, it is certainly commendable.

    If they feed in the culture of blame then obviously it should be raised.

  5. Anna May 31, 2019 at 1:20 pm #

    I am interested by the phrase challenge … I am
    Not sure it is necessarily the case that this is perjorative … a non confrontational ‘why’ (what makes you think that ? Have you tried anything else ?) deepens the knowledge of both practitioner and manager … however I know nothing about this council or how it was meant

  6. Esther June 12, 2019 at 10:27 pm #

    Disillusioned. I have noticed your responses tends to focus on bullying without any evidence of this. I have also noticed comments alluding to managers being the ones who bully social workers. Many senior managers are poor leaders and unable to create a supportive environment for front line managers and social workers yet are the first ones to point blame when things do not go well i.e Ofsted inspections. What needs to happen is support managers to be more effective managers and consider the day to day challenges. Surely this will impact positively on social workers.