13 episodes

Children's services leaders share the results of their Ofsted inspection and discuss what's going well and what's left to do.

The Ofsted Interview Community Care

    • Education
    • 5.0, 3 Ratings

Children's services leaders share the results of their Ofsted inspection and discuss what's going well and what's left to do.

    Waltham Forest council: 'Our message is not to 'prepare' for Ofsted'

    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?

    • 22 min
    Cambridgeshire council: 'Now we've got a new structure in place, we should be working more quickly'

    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?

    • 21 min
    Leeds council: ‘Social work is about relationships. If it’s not about that, it’s not about anything’

    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?

    • 23 min
    Dudley council: 'There's a sweepstake for how long before I mention restorative practice'

    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?

    • 32 min
    Essex council: 'We have a really coherent direction about practice, structure and how we do things'

    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?

    • 22 min
    Calderdale council: 'Ofsted left no stone unturned'

    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?

    • 22 min

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