Children’s services in West Sussex have been rated as ‘requiring improvement’ by Ofsted.
Inspectors spent four weeks last October and November reviewing the West Sussex County Council department and found ‘many of the recommendations from previous inspections have been implemented, with positive results’.
The report, published today (Wednesday January 20) said that children in care ‘feel safe and settled’ and young people believe that being under the care of the council has ‘made a positive difference to their lives’.
But the department was given the second-lowest rating of ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted with suggested areas of improvement including ensuring that managers carefully oversee plans, casework and reviews; being clear about who is responsible for actions; strengthening the quality of child protection decision making; addressing the high number of care leavers who are not in employment, education or training; and stopping the use of bed and breakfast accomodation for care leavers apart from emergencies.
Peter Evans, WSCC’s cabinet member for children – start of life, said: “The report highlights many of our improvements and clearly shows that children we know about are safe.
“There has been a great deal to do, and our social workers and all our children’s services staff and partner organisations have worked tremendously hard to drive through these improvements, and I applaud their achievements.
“The report also shows us where we need to improve, so we will not stop here. We will now turn our attention to addressing every recommendation from Ofsted to ensure our services to children are ‘good’ by the end of this year.”
Avril Wilson, WSCC’s executive director of care, wellbeing & education, said: “The report shows we have made huge improvements in many areas and, most importantly, children in our care feel safe and secure.
“We know we have more to do, and more improvements are needed, but the council knows itself well and already has a comprehensive, quality improvement plan in place.”
Mrs Wilson added: “I would like to thank all of the children, foster parents, adopters and partner organisations who contributed to the inspection process.”
The Ofsted report said: “Children spoken to by inspectors feel safe and nearly all feel settled where they are living. One group of young people made it very clear to inspectors that they all felt that being in care had made a positive difference to their lives, enabling them to be more confident and settled and to progress at school and college.
“The result is that care leavers feel cared for and have someone they know they can rely on.
“One care leaver reported: ‘nowadays people always ask me how I survived the care system, but I truly believe that I only survived because of the care system’.”
Inspectors say the service ‘requires improvement’, but added: “The plans in place are evidencing progress, and positive impact for children was seen right across the service.”
They also found that the council takes decisive and robust action when children are at risk of harm; social workers effectively involve young people in their own safety planning; and looked after children who make the expected progress between Key Stages 1 and 2 have improved significantly.
The report also states that the service’s newly appointed senior leadership team has put in place ‘an ambitious and comprehensive service redesign at pace’; the chief operating officer has a clear understanding of the challenges facing children’s social care and the improvement needed; and the council’s political leaders have ‘strong ambition’ for long lasting improvements and better outcomes for children.
Other recommendations to improve the service included ensuring return interviews with children who go missing always take place; and that care leavers and looked after children are helped to understand why they are in care and what their entitlements are.
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