An ‘inadequate’ children’s services department has brought average social worker caseloads down to 15 after introducing a new model of practice, inspectors have found.
Ofsted said a ‘family resilience’ model introduced in Surrey had already achieved a “fundamental aim” of reducing high numbers of contacts and referrals, child protection investigations, child in need assessments and child protection plans.
More on Surrey’s children’s services
“Social worker caseloads across the service have substantially reduced to an average of 15 each,” the report found. Smaller, manageable caseloads are a critical component of Surrey’s ‘family resilience’ model.”
The impact was all the more impressive because the model’s introduction included a reconfiguration of the front door, which had only been fully implemented five weeks before Ofsted’s arrival for its third monitoring visit since the council was rated inadequate, for the second time, in 2018.
The 2018 full inspection found that caseloads were too high in some teams and increases in demand at the front door had increased delays in assessments and child protection case conferences.
A model fit for Surrey
However, in the latest monitoring visit, inspectors praised how the restructure, which affected every frontline staff member and manager, was achieved through consultation with other local authorities “to design a model fitting the context of Surrey with the objective of achieving enduring change”.
They added: “Although the widespread service redesign was very recent at the time of the visit, inspectors found the ‘request for support’ team, [single point of access] and early help hub are providing increasingly safe, proportionate and well-evidenced initial responses to concerns reported regarding children’s safety and wellbeing.”
‘Timely and prompt work’
The reduced volume of referrals and more manageable workloads had helped facilitate “timely and prompt work, and allowing greater reflection, discussion and well-evidenced recording”, Ofsted’s report said.
Inspectors also highlighted a “highly labour-intensive” audit programme, which was fundamental to the council’s goal to achieve a sustained and widespread improvement in social work practice standards.
“Senior managers reported that they are seeing fewer cases with critical practice weaknesses, although the overall standard of practice signals that much more remains to be done to achieve the strong levels of practice that senior managers are committed to,” the report said.
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