West Berkshire Council has made positive improvements to their services for children.
This was the overarching conclusion in a report issued by Ofsted which follows a monitoring visit in December 2016, the first since the service was judged “inadequate” in March 2015.
According to inspectors, children no longer experience frequent changes of social worker, thanks to a successful campaign to recruit and retain social workers. The campaign has meant the council no longer has to rely so much on costly agency staff. This has reduced steadily from 50% at the time of the last inspection to just 17% in December 2016 and is currently down to 12%. Key teams such as child protection chairs and independent reviewing officers now consist of 100% permanent staff where previously, 70% were agency workers.
The inspectors found that the quality of assessments has also improved since the last inspection and these are now strong. They also found clear evidence that risk was reducing for most children as a result of interventions by the service.
However, there are still improvements to be made with regards to case planning and ensuring that more children receive robust interventions to reduce risks such as sexual exploitation. They also highlighted a possible risk of delay in decision making while waiting for information from partners.
Lynne Doherty, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Children and Young people said:
“This is impressive progress by an impressive team who are driven to achieve and improve this essential service. The recruitment and retention campaign is just one aspect of the ongoing work that has had a positive impact that is being felt and seen right across our children and family services. This encouraging Ofsted statement confirms that we are already a fair way along the right tracks. We are encouraged by this confirmation and committed to continuing this improvement journey right to the end of the road and across the whole of this service. We are working with the strength of a highly capable collective who have the ability to make children’s services in West Berkshire outstanding and reduce risk to children.”
Rachael Wardell, Corporate Director for Communities at West Berkshire Council added:
“We are very pleased that Ofsted recognised what a positive place West Berkshire is for social workers to practise. Our social workers are supported and challenged, their caseloads are manageable and their supervision is regular and reflective. We know that this makes West Berkshire good place to work and above all to keep children safe.”