Newly qualified social workers in City of York council’s children’s services have been expected to carry too much responsibility too early on in their careers, Ofsted inspectors have said.
Inspectors carrying out a focused visit at the council in July this year found newly qualified social workers had been given “sole responsibility” for child protection cases.
They also found children in need cases were being allocated to unqualified staff, which meant they were taking on complex work, and at times “inappropriate levels of risk”.
Inspectors noted that new senior managers had already recognised this practice was “unacceptable” and were taking steps to re-allocate the cases to social workers.
The council is also revising its support for newly qualified workers, the report said.
‘Social worker stability’
Inspectors concluded there had been a deterioration in the quality of services for children in need of help and protection since their last full inspection of the council in 2016.
They found that while meetings were generally timely and well-attended, there was “drift and delay” in the progression of both children in need and child protection plans for some children, which had been exacerbated by staff turnover.
More recent inspection reports
“Too many children have had too many changes of social worker”, the report said, resulting in a “loss of focus” on what needs to happen to make children’s lives better.
Inspectors also found some children had been on plans for too long, some for several years, which they said indicated a “lack of progress and effective management oversight”.
However, where there was “greater social worker stability and outcome-focused plans”, more effective work was being done to reduce risk and meet children’s needs, they said.
Call for better oversight
The report identified five key areas where improvements need to be made, including:
- Offering better supervision to staff and making management oversight more effective, to ensure that both children in need and child protection plans are progressed on time.
- Improving the quality of plans to make them more focused on children’s needs, more easily understood, and to make clear the expectations of parents and carers.
- Ensuring visits to children and families are purposeful and are recorded in a way that is relevant to their plan and includes the child’s voice.
- Reducing the number of changes of social worker some children are experiencing.
- Implementing an effective quality assurance framework that focuses on the experiences of children and leads to a better understanding and improvement of frontline practice.
‘All cases to be reviewed’
Ian Cuthbertson, the executive member for children, young people and education at City of York council, said: “Keeping children safe is the most important role of any local authority, which is why we welcome Ofsted’s visit and recommendations.”
Cuthbertson added that the council had invested more than £300,000 to speed up improvements, after identifying problems within children’s services.
“I am pleased that Ofsted’s letter notes this, stating positively that the council is ‘on a trajectory of change’ and has ‘political support’ to put effective policies and processes in place to make further improvements,” he said. “Among the changes already made by a new senior leadership team include establishing an improvement board, commissioning a review of all cases, restructuring teams and increasing training.”
Cuthbertson said the council “would continue to work closely with Ofsted, our partners, staff and the Department for Education, to ensure that our children have the best possible services”.
This year’s Community Care Live 2019 boasts over 30 free learning sessions to equip you to face the key challenges in social work practice today. You can also sign up to any of our eight legal learning sessions to help ensure you have the legal literacy your role requires. Register now to ensure you don’t miss out.