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"Substantial progress" at Surrey County Council children's services

4 minute read
"Substantial progress" at Surrey County Council children's services

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Rebecca Curley at 12:29pm 19th December 2019.

Inconsistency with reporting and documenting cases involving vulnerable children has been highlighted in the latest Ofsted report on Surrey’s struggling children’s services. 

But the findings have been welcomed by the county council’s lead member in charge of the department who says they have also made "substantial improvements" in the past year and a half. 

And cllr Mary Lewis, cabinet member for children, young people and families at Surrey County Council, says the latest report acts as a "milestone" for social workers and managers who are trying to improve children’s services:

"We know that when we start with a new social work practice model - we know it’s going to take time to improve. 

"It’s not going to happen overnight.

"Improving children’s services from where we were is like a jigsaw."

Her comments come as Ofsted (Office for standards in education) released a report on Wednesday (December 18) into their most recent monitoring visit to the council held in last month.

Surrey County Council children’s services was rated inadequate for a second time in March 2018 and since then has been under close scrutiny by the Government through Ofsted and a children’s commissioner carrying out regular visits. 

This was the fourth monitoring visit by Ofsted inspectors.

In an overview of the latest visit, inspectors said senior leaders and managers had made "substantial progress in improving responses to children who are at risk of significant harm" as well as those who have child protection orders and "in need" plans. 

But they found that "practice is not yet consistently strong for all children".

In their most recent visit inspectors looked at the timeliness and effectiveness of strategy meetings and child protection investigations; the quality and timeliness of assessments; progress made for children who are subject to child protection orders and the response to children experiencing or at risk of child exploitation. 

They praised lowered caseloads for social workers and improvements with frontline safeguarding.

But they also pointed out the need for better recording and documenting of meetings, assessments and social worker visits. 

They said they found some child protection plans "too lengthy and saturated with dense professional language". 

And the impact on children of inconsistent reporting by social workers meant that "the extent, severity and adverse impact on children’s daily well-being and safety is not explained clearly enough". 

But cllr Lewis said she recognised there was more they could improve on but that the report also represented the amount of work teams and social workers have been doing to improve children’s services.

The department has been given £4.2m from the Department for Education to implement a new family safeguarding model over the next three years, which cllr Lewis said will help bring all their work in line. 

She said that part of the work they are doing is to have mental health workers and substance abuse workers to support parents in their homes which will then help to support children:

"The aim is to get the help to the parents so that they can keep children safe.

"There are areas for improvement but we are confident that working together with our partners we can keep going on this journey. 

"I’m extremely encouraged by this report. 

"The long-term aim is that we should focussed on keeping children safe where they are."

Ofsted are due back in the spring for one more monitoring visit before it decides if Surrey is then ready for another mock style full inspection.