22 minutes | Apr 25, 2019
Waltham Forest council: 'Our message is not to 'prepare' for Ofsted'
Heather Flinders, divisional director for children and families at Waltham Forest council, talks to Community Care about the ‘good’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted for the “effective interventions” that children who are assessed as being at risk from domestic abuse receive, the increased use made of “purposeful individual work” by social workers, and the sensitivity applied to the “diversity of culture, religion and ethnicity of families in Waltham Forest”. Senior leadership, graded ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in this latest inspection, was said to be “highly aspirational” with the regulator highlighting robust governance arrangements, and “much improved” quality assurance. Flinders explains how the service has responded to the challenges in the borough, including knife-related crime, deprivation and gang-related activities. She discusses the senior leadership team’s approach to shadowing staff, and how the council was committed to a ‘business as usual’ approach rather than distinct preparation for an Ofsted inspection. We also hear how Waltham Forest uses audits and data to inform quality assurance, and how partnerships are established and maintained. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1) What would you say are the key areas for the council that have ‘significantly’ improved, to quote Ofsted since the previous inspection in 2015, and how were these improvements implemented? 2) How were staff prepared for and communicated to during the Ofsted inspection, and indeed the outcome? 3) Ofsted particularly highlighted the quality of service for children assessed to be at risk from domestic abuse? How does the service embed its work with adults and children? 4) Can you tell us more about the service towards vulnerable adolescents, including initiatives such as gang intervention programmes, and how has the service responded to, or will respond to a potential continued rise in demand for these services? 5) How has the service managed to significantly improve its children in care and care leavers services – Ofsted, for example highlighted sustained performance in edge of care services, and the cultural sensitivity social workers demonstrate towards asylum seeking children? 6) How will the service continue its improvements around children’s health assessments, and pathway plans for care leavers? 7) How has the senior leadership developed its knowledge of the service’s strengths and weaknesses, and what have been the challenges towards developing this? 8) How have effective partnerships been developed and sustained, to the point where such partnerships have been deemed a real strength? 9) Can you tell us more about the initiative among senior leaders to shadow those staff on the frontline, and how involved the senior team get with staff on this basis? 10) What have been the main initiatives to improve quality assurance, and how are social workers involved in this? 11) And finally, what are the priorities for Waltham Forest council in terms of continued development of its children’s services, and what do you see as potential challenges to achieve these?
21 minutes | Apr 15, 2019
Cambridgeshire council: 'Now we've got a new structure in place, we should be working more quickly'
Lou Williams, service director for children’s services and safeguarding at Cambridgeshire council, talks to Community Care about the ‘requires improvement’ judgment the council’s children’s services recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted for taking swift action after a restructure in spring 2017 had been shown to a have a negative impact on the delivery of services to children and families. “These weaknesses were compounded by high caseloads, making it very difficult for social workers to complete work beyond the most immediate tasks in a timely manner or to a consistently good standard,” inspectors observed. Ofsted was optimistic that some changes implemented late in 2018 have the potential to be positive, but said that high caseload remain a threat to the council’s journey of improvement. Williams describes the considerable journey Cambridgeshire has taken, particularly how the service approached what effectively has been a restructure less than two years after previous large-scale changes were made. He explains how the council has benefitted from the use of child practitioners and clinicians, how services for children in care and care leavers will continue to improve, and he addresses the challenge of recruitment in the social work sector and how he is optimistic that the 2018 changes to the service will have a positive impact. The full list of questions posed by Community Care’s associate editor Sarah Dennis are: 1)How accurately do you feel that the outcome of Ofsted’s inspection corresponded with the service’s self-assessment? 2)What was the restructuring of services that Ofsted identified as having a negative impact in speed of response and support, and how have leaders responded to this in terms of what Ofsted deemed “well-considered actions”? 3)Can you tell us more about the Early Help Hub, the arrangements launched late last year within the MASH for assessing referrals, and the new adolescent teams - which Ofsted felt could be a real asset? How are these contributing to the strengthening of services? 4)How has the use of clinicians and children’s practitioners within teams been managed, and how closely involved are social workers in these cases? 5)What is the service doing to ensure that delays in follow-up visits after initial visits are being reduced, both in terms of the frontline staff and those that are providing supervision? 6)How is the service addressing Ofsted’s observation that work in preparing children in care and care leavers for independence does not include work in partnership with young peo-ple? 7)What are the ongoing challenges in terms of recruitment and retention of social workers, and how much progress has been made in increasing staff numbers and the focused use of agency staff over the past year? 8)Ofsted highlighted the size of caseloads as the single biggest threat to improvements in service. What proportionally would you say has been the rise in numbers and complexity for social workers and how is the service looking to manage this? 9)How has the senior leadership developed its knowledge of the service’s strengths and weaknesses, and what are the areas where clearer visibility is needed to continue support-ing improvement? 10)And finally, what would you say are the priorities for Cambridgeshire children’s services for improvement, how is the new leadership looking to embed these and how is it working with the frontline staff to do so?
7 minutes | Mar 6, 2019
Retention risk tool
23 minutes | Feb 26, 2019
Leeds council: ‘Social work is about relationships. If it’s not about that, it’s not about anything’
Steve Walker, director of children’s services at Leeds council, talks to Community Care about the ‘outstanding’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted particularly for its commitment to investment in children’s services, including the development of what the regulator termed “innovative” initiatives, its well-established partnership arrangements and its “highly motivated” and “loyal” workforce. Walker describes the considerable journey for the service since its ‘inadequate’ rating in 2010, but how the focus has been on consistently good practice, rather than an Ofsted rating. He explains how the council has been working to get caseloads down to a manageable level for frontline staff, and how career development and learning has been embedded within Leeds children’s services. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)What would you say were the core contributors to this latest inspection grading and how confident were you of the pending result? 2)Can you tell us more about the what Ofsted termed the well-established multi-agency arrangements at the front door, how this has enhanced the service, and how communication and understanding is maintained across partnerships? 3)How has the council been successful in developing and maintaining relationship-based practice and what would you say makes this essential? 4)Can you tell us a bit more about what Ofsted termed the clear Leeds Practice Model and how and why this was implemented – and what the benefits have been? 5)Ofsted has noted that the council’s leaders have identified an improvement plan for its care leavers services – what steps have already been taken on this, and how has the transition into a distinct service been managed? 6)How has Leeds managed to secure and embed a learning culture within the service – what are the key tools/resources it uses and how are staff encouraged and enabled to continue development? 7)How has the council managed to secure and ensure investment into initiatives such as the restorative early support teams and MST-FIT – how have these supported social work practice and what is being done to ensure these remain? 8)How has the council maintained manageable caseloads – I know it’s difficult to pin down an ‘average’ – but can you say this has improved for practitioners over the past three years and if so, how has that been managed? 9)And finally, how is Leeds going to maintain and develop its outstanding performance, and do you see any challenges ahead on that front?
33 minutes | Feb 19, 2019
Dudley council: 'There's a sweepstake for how long before I mention restorative practice'
Martin Samuels, strategic director of people at Dudley council, and Sue Butcher, chief officer for children's services, talks to Community Care about the ‘requires improvement’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. Ofsted praised the 'significant' improvements made at the service since its previous inspection, with a particular nod to developments in services for children in care and care leavers, and improvements to its MASH service. But challenges were said to remain, particularly in the stability of the workforce. Samuels and Butcher discuss the council's Centre for Professional Practice initiative, its dedication to restorative practice, how the children in care and care leavers services have improved, with the help of independent reviewing officer oversight, and how it approaching the issue of workforce stability by moving away from the mindset of seeing a high proportion agency staff as "a problem". The full list of questions, posed by Community Care's associate editor Sarah Dennis is: How aligned did you feel that the council’s self-assessment of performance was with Ofsted’s findings? What are the particular highlights in the progress made by the council since its previous inspection and how has this been achieved and recognised? What do you see as the particular strengths of the MASH and how were these achieved, particularly in relation to what Ofsted terms the timely decision making and well understood thresholds? How will this be transferred to the assessment teams in terms of process? Can you tell us more about the graded care profile tool and how the council is further working to embed this? How has the service for children in care and care leavers been turned around – what are the strengths now, and what is there still to work on? How is the council seeking to stabilise the workforce and what does the council recognise as the impact of what Ofsted terms high staff turnover? What is the current rate of turnover at the council among its social workers? Can you tell us more about what Ofsted termed the strengthened structure for children’s service – including the Centre for Professional Practice, and what this has achieved? What is the council doing to assess and improve supervision of social workers, particularly at the first-line manager level? And finally, what is the next stage in Dudley’s journey?
22 minutes | Feb 4, 2019
Essex council: 'We have a really coherent direction about practice, structure and how we do things'
Helen Lincoln, executive director of children and families at Essex council, talks to Community Care about the ‘outstanding’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted for its management of out of area placements, its work within gang intervention as an emerging challenge and its investment in its workforce, resulting in low agency staffing levels and manageable caseloads. Lincoln explains how the council’s children’s services has taken advantage of a stable senior leadership to develop a well-established structure, and how the relationship-based practice model, deemed “fully embedded” by Ofsted, has supported the council’s direction of travel. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)What was Essex council’s experience of the Ofsted inspection process and do you feel that the report adequately reflects the findings and the core highlights of improvement at the council? 2)How were staff kept informed throughout the inspection process and told of the findings? 3)Can you give some examples of what Ofsted deemed the sensitive direct work that Ofsted saw within both the child protection and children in care teams? 4)Can you tell us more about the practice model at the council that Ofsted has deemed both effective and innovative and why this was the direction of travel in social work practice within the service? 5)How is the council succeeding in the management of out of area placements and the ability of social workers to provide the support to service users that Ofsted credits? 6)Can you tell us more about the development of the gang intervention teams – what is the purpose and what impact is it having on this area of practice? How are social workers involved within the teams? 7)How has the senior leadership managed and maintained a strong knowledge base and understanding of the strengths and challenges of the service? 8)What would you say are the particular strengths of the leadership team and indeed wider social work managers and how do you feel this has benefited social workers on the front-line? 9)What is the average caseload at the council and how is it managing to keep these low so, as Ofsted says, social workers are given the time and space to build meaningful relationships with children and families? 10)What’s next for Essex council’s children’s services?
23 minutes | Jan 18, 2019
Calderdale council: 'Ofsted left no stone unturned'
Julie Jenkins, director of children's and young people's services at Calderdale council talk to Community Care about the journey to its 'good' Ofsted rating achieved towards the end of 2018. Ofsted highlighted the council's 'outstanding' services for children in care and care leavers, the supportive and caring culture within the council's children's services and the significant strengthening of performance management. Jenkins describes the "tailored" nature of the council's children in care and care leaver service, how it took decisive action to immediately address areas of improvement Ofsted highlighted during the inspection process and how the service supports social work staff with regular supervision, monitoring of caseloads and tight management oversight. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care's associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: What would you say have been the particular points of improvement for Calderdale since its previous inspection, and were these, in your view, adequately reflected by Ofsted in their findings? What has been the core contributor to what Ofsted termed a “considerable improvement” in the timeliness and updating of assessments and how has this been measured? Can you tell us more about the work social workers undertake with the Calderdale Therapeutic Team and how this supports and encourages practice? What are the particular initiatives behind the transformation of the council’s services for children in care, now rated outstanding, and how were these implemented? How has the council’s senior leadership team gone about creating a culture where, to quote Ofsted, social workers felt “safe and valued”? What has caused the strengthening of performance management and what more is being done to further improve quality assurance? Can you tell us about the two areas of practice with some adverse impact Ofsted noted that leaders were unaware of, and the decisive action taken to address these concerns that inspectors noted? What is the council’s priorities in terms of the areas for improvement highlighted by Ofsted? And finally, what are the future developments for Calderdale’s children’s services?
24 minutes | Jan 9, 2019
Barnsley council: 'At the heart of good social work is relationship-based practice.'
Rachel Dickinson, director of children’s and adults’ services at Barnsley council, talks to Community Care about the ‘good’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised for its good quality assessments, its approach to permanence and “excellent” workforce stability enabling children to “benefit from being able to develop consistent relationships with social workers”. Dickinson explains how the service has retained its workforce and the importance of co-allocation and supervision, how the service has developed its strategy in its response to risks posed by child sexual and criminal exploitation and what it intends to do next to stabilise outstanding practice across the board. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)What do you think have been the core strengths of Barnsley’s children’s services since the previous inspection and do you feel these were reflected in Ofsted’s reporting? 2)Ofsted noted that the service’s self-assessment was ‘realistic’ and ‘demonstrates ambition to ‘do even better’. How does the senior leadership ensure that understanding of its services and can you tell us of some of the ambition laid out within the assessment? 3)How has the council managed to implement the development of good quality assessments and how is this measured through both the council’s point of view and that of Ofsted? 4)Can you describe to us the strategies and procedures around indications of risks from child sexual or criminal exploitation? 5)How has the council invested to ensure what Ofsted terms the ‘excellent’ workforce stability and the relationships built between social workers and their children and families? 6)What is the current vacancy and agency rate at the council? 7)How has the council and its social workers maintained a good service with regards to permanence and promotion and exploration of permanence options? 8)How have strategic and operational partnerships been matured and what would you say are the core strengths of this approach as noted by Ofsted? 9)What are the next steps to improving audit and learnings from audits, and what are the priorities for the improvement points noted by Ofsted? 10)And finally what are the next stages in Barnsley’s journey?
17 minutes | Jan 2, 2019
Hertfordshire council: - 'We're always looking to improve'
Jenny Coles, director of children’s services at Hertfordshire council, talks to Community Care about the ‘good’ judgment the service has received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted for its high-quality partnership working, particularly in its now established multi-disciplinary family safeguarding teams, the use of “top quality” performance management information, and the “wise” investment in its workforce. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)How was the inspection process managed by the senior leadership team and within the wider teams? 2)What would you say have been the highlights for Hertfordshire since the last inspection and do you feel these were adequately reflected in Ofsted’s findings? 3)Ofsted highlighted the partnership working as a ‘real strength’ – can you talk about how this has been achieved in relation to the family safeguarding model that is obviously now well established in the council and how this is continuously being developed and embedded? 4)Can you talk about the strength of the council around practice concerning domestic violence and how this has been developed and achieved? 5)How is the council shaping the development of team managers and independent reviewing officers – this is a tricky area for authorities to get right and Hertfordshire has been praised for this by Ofsted? 6)How has the council strengthened its reputation as a good corporate parent? 7)Clearly the senior leadership has been rated outstanding by Ofsted – what would you say are the core factors that contributed to this? 8)How has the workforce been invested in and stabilised – what is the significant reduction in vacancy rates and agency staff and what would you say have been the core benefits? 9)How are social workers being developed in Hertfordshire – both those that are newly qualified and those that are more experienced? 10)What is the priority for the senior leadership teams in terms of improvement as noted by Ofsted? 11)And finally, what are the next stages in Hertfordshire’s journey?
27 minutes | Dec 18, 2018
Hounslow council: 'We weren't just preparing for a one-off event'
Jacqui McShannon, director of children’s safeguarding and specialist services at Hounslow council, and Councillor Tom Bruce, the council’s cabinet member for education, children and youth services talk to Community Care about the ‘good’ judgment that Hounslow council’s children’s services recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted for its “timely and effective” front door service and the “highly aspirational” social work for children in care and care leavers. Senior leaders were cited as having a “a comprehensive understanding of the strengths and areas for further development, underpinned by regular performance monitoring, quality assurance audits and a thorough and accurate self-assessment”. McShannon and Bruce discuss with Community Care how the council remains transparent and encourages challenge and scrutiny of its service. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)How does the senior leadership team maintain contact with the frontline and their knowledge of how the service is being run? 2)What do you think have been the core strengths of Hounslow children’s services since the previous inspection and do you feel these were reflected in Ofsted’s reporting? 3)How was the inspection process managed within the senior leadership teams and indeed wider teams? 4)What has been the effect of the strong political and corporate support that children’s services receive from the wider council, and how has this benefitted? 5)What ‘further capacity’ is being built to cope with the unprecedented demand referred to in the report? 6)How has the partnership approach been strengthened and what are the next steps that senior leaders want to take to continue that journey? 7)Ofsted were particularly complimentary about the quality of services for children in care – how have social workers been enabled to be ‘aspirational’ for this group of children, and how have senior leaders embedded an effective monitoring process? 8)What is what Ofsted termed as the ‘well-established’ system for permanence options, and how has the adoption service been improved since the last inspection? 9)Can you describe some of the performance monitoring and auditing methods the service operates and how these are utilised and analysed? 10)Given the improvements in performance monitoring, how will the service look to improve supervision recording, particularly in light of Ofsted stating that social workers are speaking positively about the supervision they receive? 11)What methods have been used to help stabilise the workforce and what are the training and management support offers that Ofsted refers to? 12)And finally what are the next stages in Hounslow’s journey?
24 minutes | Dec 14, 2018
Bristol council: 'There's never a good time for an inspection'
Dr Jacqui Jensen, executive director of adults, children, education and public health at Bristol council, talks to Community Care about the ‘requires improvement’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted for the “considerable” progress senior leaders have made in “developing an environment where good social work can flourish”. Ofsted saw that “practice improvements were most evident” in a number of areas identified as weak in the council’s previous inspection, but some “pockets of weaker practice” remain. Jensen discusses with Community Care how the council is working to continue its journey, highlighting that the council is aiming for ‘outstanding’. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)What would you say were some core turning points for the council over the past few years and do you think these were borne out of the inspection findings? 2)How would you say that Ofsted’s findings compared with the service’s self-assessment – do you think Ofsted was broadly in agreement? 3)How were staff communicated to about the report – and how does the senior leadership team maintain contact with the frontline overall? 4)How were services ‘changed’ in the way they were delivered, and how were workloads significantly reduced? 5)How were the teams restructured and how was this managed? In particular, the children with disabilities team appears to have u-turned from a weakness to a strength according to Ofsted – what has been put in place to achieve that? 6)What work has been done by senior leaders on recruitment, retention and workforce development – what has been the shift in vacancy rates and turnover in terms of figures over the past year? 7)What are the next steps for continuing the improvement of case recording and the capturing of management oversight in supervision records? 8)Finally, what’s next for Bristol children’s services?
15 minutes | Dec 5, 2018
Yvette Stanley discusses Ofsted's annual report
Yvette Stanley discusses Ofsted's annual report by Community Care
13 minutes | Nov 14, 2018
Portsmouth council: 'We know the only way to continue to be good is to aim to be outstanding'
Alison Jeffery, director of children and families’ services at Portsmouth council, talks to Community Care about the ‘good’ judgment the service recently received from Ofsted. The council was praised by Ofsted particularly for its “impressive” quality assurance and its learning and development environment. Jeffery explains how the service implemented these measures, including how it ensures a strong supportive learning environment for its staff, its commitment to restorative practice, bow it has embedded performance management and how it plans to broaden the ranges and approaches social workers can apply. The full list of questions, posed by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is: 1)What do you think Portsmouth council has done particularly well since the previous inspection in 2014. Was this reflected in Ofsted’s findings? 2)How was the outcome of the inspection communicated to staff, and how does the senior leadership team keep in touch with frontline staff in general? 3)Reflecting on the inspection process itself, how was this managed by the teams, and what were your perceptions of it? 4)How important has the political and financial support of children’s services from the local authority been and what has this enabled? 5)Turning on to the observations in the report itself, how has the leadership team stabilised the workforce, and how does it manage the recruitment and deployment of agency staff in terms of managing caseloads and continuity? 6)Can we get an example of the direct work that is identified as a strength by inspectors - in terms of how a social worker(s)’ practice has directly helped a family? 7)How does the council apply quality assurance. What is the ‘impressive’ performance framework that has been put in place and where do you think have been the various areas of practice that have improved that Ofsted refers to? 8)Ofsted highlighted the training and development opportunities for staff. How has Portsmouth incorporated and invested in this and what have been the benefits? 9)The way the council approaches permanence has been identified as a strength. How has this been developed? 10)What’s next for Portsmouth and what steps is the service taking to continue performance?
20 minutes | Oct 31, 2018
North Yorkshire council: 'Workers need reasonable caseloads. It's not rocket or social work science'
Stuart Carlton, director of children and young people's services at North Yorkshire, discusses the services' 'outstanding' Ofsted judgment. The council is the first to receive an across-the-board 'outstanding' rating under the new Ofsted inspection framework. Carlton explains some of the keys to this success, including no longer using agency staff, having a clear practice model and making sure social workers have reasonable caseloads. The full list of questions, asked by Community Care associate editor Sarah Dennis, is as follows: 1. North Yorkshire saw a great result in its latest Ofsted inspection, the first council to be judged outstanding across the board, and the leadership team were strongly credited for their ambitious, forward thinking approach. How has North Yorkshire’s senior leadership team been able to achieve such oversight and knowledge of the services, and how does it communicate with the frontline teams and their service users? 2. Given Ofsted’s note regarding your move away from ‘auditing’, we’d be interested to hear about the approach to performance monitoring and management within the council – how has this been implemented and maintained such consistency? 3. How has North Yorkshire’s stable workforce been maintained and what has it taken to get to this point? 4. In terms of the environment for social work teams to work effectively, what would you say are the core requirements, based on the experience at North Yorkshire? 5. Ofsted were particularly complimentary about the council’s No Wrong Door initiative – can you offer some background to this and how it has been so successfully implemented? 6. Similarly with making psychologists available to all fieldwork teams under the PIPA service – what was the rationale behind this and the core benefits – and how is this being further developed? 7. What challenges did the council encounter in incorporating such services – were there risks to compliance and ‘the basics’ in performance in being creative? 8. Finally, what’s next for North Yorkshire – what are you looking at to further develop and maintain performance?