This paper explains the response to the Ofsted ‘Inadequate’ judgement of West Sussex Children’s Services in May 2019, and the subsequent appointment of a Commissioner to make recommendations as to whether the service should remain under the County Council’s control.
The Health and Wellbeing Board is asked to:
1) note the Commissioner’s recommendations (Section 1), and the actions already undertaken as part of a continuing improvement narrative (sections 2 & 3);
2) note the next steps in the improvement journey (Section 4); and
3) Continue to support the County Council through the partnership in enacting the necessary changes.
48.1 Upon the arrival of the Head of Children’s Social Care the Chairman moved the meeting to Agenda Item 7 on the agenda.
48.2 The Board was reminded that on 20 June 2019 the Health and Wellbeing Board received a report explaining the initial response to the ‘Inadequate’ Ofsted judgement of Children’s Services and the County Council’s creation of a Practice Improvement Plan to address the 10 key recommendations for service improvement that Ofsted had made.
48.3 It was reminded that the June 2019 report explained that the Department for Education (DfE) on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, had appointed a Children’s Services Commissioner, to judge the County Council’s capability and capacity to return the service to a satisfactory level.
48.4 It was stated that the Commissioner’s report was published on 17 December 2019, and the report received at this meeting summarised the Commissioner’s findings and explained how his recommendations were being addressed. It also provided a broad summary of all the service improvements and developments that had been in progress during the second half of 2019 and it looked towards further improvement planned in 2020. Hampshire County Council has been appointed as a Partner in Practice to in order to provide service development support in the period before an alternative delivery model can be formally created.
48.5 The Head of Children’s Social Care highlighted seven work streams that would be a focus for improvement; Early Help, Multi-Agency Children in Need, Vulnerable Children, Children with disabilities, Looked after Children, Fostering/Adoption and Independent Review Officers. There will be a strong emphasis on leadership and improved staff engagement so that the work force is being listened to and there is a common understanding of the improvement journey. It was noted that the OFSTED Monitoring visit in December 2019 mirrored the team’s own self-assessment which was seen as positive because internal performance monitoring is on track.
48.6 Board members were informed that staff morale had improved along with stabilising the work force, listening to staff and reducing social work caseloads.
48.7 It was explained that although improvements were being made there was a lot more work needed including improvements around private fostering arrangements and developing a strategy around neglect.
48.8 The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People stated that it was important that the service was quality assured so that good practice was made clear. The Cabinet Member acknowledged that although teams were working at speed to make improvements, collaborative and multi-agency support would be required. Board members were informed that the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People is now chairing the Corporate Parenting Panel which aspires to include District and Borough Council representation at some point in the near future. The Cabinet Member stated that all West Sussex Councillors would be required to know what is expected of them and as such an LGA Corporate Parenting Members Day had been arranged. The Cabinet Member is keen to strengthen the role of Social Workers, retaining a happy workforce whilst engaging with District and Boroughs and is committed to working with all partners to achieve improvement.
48.9 In receiving the report the Board;
· agreed that the District and Boroughs would continue to support as would all Health and Wellbeing Board Members;
· emphasised that the voice of the child would be the focus with young people influencing at strategic level;
· highlighted the need for workforce development whilst noting that audits, supporting managers to deliver, staff training and strengthening leadership was being done as part of the improvement journey;
· noted the intention to work collaboratively with the Voluntary Sector for positive co-production outcomes; and
· pointed out the need to work across children’s and adults’ services so that a range of services, such as housing could assist with the Starting Well premise and that the importance of effective transitioning is recognised.
48.10 Resolved that the Health and Wellbeing Board;
1) note the Commissioner’s recommendations and the actions already undertaken as part of a continuing improvement narrative;
2) note the next steps in the improvement journey; and
3) continue to support the County Council through the partnership in order to enact the necessary changes.