This report provides an overview of the recent Ofsted Monitoring Visit of Children’s Services, which took place on the 20 and 21 August 2020.
The Committee considered a report which updated the Committee on the outcome of first Ofsted monitoring visit. The Chairman confirmed that the letter from Ofsted had been published by the Council and was available on the Council’s website.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments, which included:
Increase in social workers and reduction in
caseloads – reference was made to
the additional 35 social work posts that had been created across
the service and the impact this had had on reduced caseloads, which
was welcomed. Officers added that recruitment and retention was an
improving picture, with below 30% of staff being from agency. It
was added that the first two of 10 international social workers
were also now in Medway.
Quality of practice – officers
confirmed that the quality and consistency of assessments was the
next area of focus and from that would come improvements in
planning and permanency for children and a quality of service for
children and their families. It was
added that the moderation of audits was found to be effective and
sound, which was a significant positive outcome. However, the first line of auditing was sometimes
considered to be overly optimistic and that was therefore a gap
that was being worked on to narrow.
Furthermore, as quality of practice improvement was continued,
re-referral rates, which was still a concern, should
Voice of the child – reference was
made to the commentary in the letter around ensuring the voice of
the child is heard in assessments.
Officers confirmed that this largely relevant to two
issues. One related to cases where
there were issues of domestic abuse and/or substance misuse and
social workers were overly focussed on the parental behaviour and
not giving the impact on the child enough consideration. The other
related to cases involving multiple children, where a particular
issue related to one child, there was not enough consideration of
the impact on the other children within the family.
Child’s journey – officers undertook to share a document that had been
produced for the Corporate Parenting Board, which detailed
information about the whole journey for children within children
· Health partners contribution – reference was made to the comment within the letter about there being some issues with the contribution of health partners in some cases. Officers confirmed that this related to a small number of cases which had been an impact of the covid-19 pandemic and NHS colleagues being redeployed. As those colleagues returned to their substantive posts, engagement was improving.
· Consistency of practice – officers confirmed that the Assistant Director and Principal Social Worker met monthly with team leaders to ensure consistency of practice and added that stabilising the workforce was key to embedding consistency of approach. It was added that phase 2 of the improvement journey was focussing on practice and making sure that changes implemented were sustainable.
· Pace of improvement – in response to a question about whether the pace of improvement was supported by Ofsted, officers explained that there needed to be a balance between pace and sustainability and although Ofsted had not been explicit about this, the dramatic reduction in caseloads which had given social workers the space to carry out better quality work had been a huge improvement factor. Officers also confirmed that the Children’s Commissioner, the Independent Chair of the Improvement Board and the Department for Education had all indicated that the letter from Ofsted had demonstrated a very satisfactory result of a first monitoring visit and it was also highlighted that no children were identified to be at risk of harm by Ofsted.
· Ofsted’s next interaction with Medway – in response to a question about when the next interaction from Ofsted would be, officers confirmed that Ofsted would be undertaking assurance visits to local authorities, regulated services and schools for the next six months. This was causing a further delay in that the second monitoring visit would not take place until the assurance visit in Medway was completed, which would be early 2021 at the earliest.
· Impact on action plan – officers confirmed that Medway’s improvement action plan was dynamic and flexible and would inevitably be reviewed and modified, although much of the findings from Ofsted were already identified and being addressed in the action plan.
The Committee noted the report and welcomed the receipt of the document relating to the child’s journey and a future report on quality assurance.
In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Cooper and Johnson requested that their votes in favour be recorded.