West Sussex children’s services found to have made ‘steady progress’ at latest monitoring visit

West Sussex County Council is making ‘steady progress’ in improving its children’s services, Ofsted has reported.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 3:03 pm
County Hall Chichester. Pic S Robards SR2105051 SUS-210505-160522001

Inspectors carried out a monitoring visit in September – their third visit since the services were judged inadequate in May 2019.

The visit focussed on how social work practice is improving the lives of children with disabilities, as well as how decisions are made, how well managers oversee things and the capacity of social workers to provide help and support.

There were many positives in a letter from inspector Tracey Scott, which was published on Tuesday (October 12), as well as areas in which the council still needs to improve.

Ms Scott wrote: “The local authority is making steady progress.

“The support that disabled children receive has improved since the October 2020 focused assurance visit, when significant concerns were highlighted for disabled children in West Sussex.”

She also highlighted the commitment of the senior leadership team, the fact that social workers know the children they work with well, and that the voice of the children was largely being heard.

Jacquie Russell, cabinet member for children and young people, said the improvements were ‘encouraging to see’ but recognised that there was still work to be done.

The inspectors raised a number of areas which weren’t yet up to scratch.

While the workload of most social workers was described as ‘manageable’, for some it was still too high.

Ms Scott wrote: “While the quality and effectiveness of assessments, plans and supervision is improving, it remains too variable.

“The impact of social work support that children receive is inconsistent, and for a small number of children this continues to be ineffective.”

She also pointed out that, while child protection enquiries were ‘comprehensive’, for a small number of children they took too long to complete.

The effectiveness and impact of social work support was described as ‘inconsistent’, with some youngsters experiencing too many changes of social worker.

On the other side of the coin, though, there was some positive feedback about the improvements being made.

One parent told the inspectors that their social worker had ‘made such a difference’ and had been the ‘first person to listen’, adding: “Before her, workers came and went and never followed up – it felt like they weren’t interested.”

A child added: “Whatever I say, she listens.”

Mrs Russell said: “Ensuring our children and young people with disabilities receive the help and support they need is critical.

Ofsted highlight improvements made in this area of the service and the difference we are making to our disabled children and young people which is encouraging to see.

“The report identifies areas where we need to do further work to improve the quality and consistency of our practice.

“These areas are being addressed as part of our development plan and our ongoing improvement journey.

“I would like to thank all our children, families and staff teams who met with colleagues from Ofsted.

“We will continue to work together as we strive to provide the best service to our children and families.”