Ofsted finds independent reviewing officers need sufficient capacity …

The overall effectiveness of Nottingham City Council children’s services have been rated “good’ following a trial of the new Ofsted inspection framework being introduced next year.

However, some services for children are not yet good:

‘independent reviewing officers do not have the capacity to sufficiently monitor the progress of children’s plans between review meetings’.

Inspectors trialling the new framework during their visit to Nottingham City Council in January and February have praised the strong leadership. The council has prioritised investment in a number of services for children. It found that social workers and family support workers are well supported in delivering robust and effective interventions in families and they were impressed with the council’s commitment to finding permanent homes for children:

“The service has successfully found adopters and foster carers for some children with very complex needs,”

Ofsted’s inspection report also states what needs to improve:

  • The council has not been tenacious enough in sustaining contact and support for a small but significant number of care leavers. The current circumstances of these care leavers are unknown and therefore the local authority is not able to provide support if this is needed.
  • The council do not respond robustly enough when young people present as homeless.
  • The council does not always fully understand the reasons why children go missing and therefore does not always give children the help that they need.
  • Independent reviewing officers do not have the capacity to sufficiently monitor the progress of children’s plans between review meetings.

Related news

Ofsted’s national director for social care Eleanor Schooling has given more details about the new inspection framework, which will be introduced across England from January 2018.

From January 2018 Inspectors will be less interested in high level plans and strategies and more focused on the experiences of children and families, and social workers’ effectiveness in helping them.

Inspectors will look in depth at how children are getting on and how they are progressing and will not be as concerned with the means by which those ends were achieved.

Eleanor has pledged:

  • No preconceived ideas. Inspectors will look at how social workers help the children in their care. Focus will be more on impact and less on process. ‘Inspectors will not be prescriptive’.
  • Progress is relative. Inspectors will want to see that children are making progress, and hopefully at a faster rate than children who have not had the same experiences as they have. ‘The most important thing is that children are doing better in many aspects of their lives as a result of coming into care’.
  • Effective children’s social care teams. Eleanor is clear that that manageable caseloads are crucial to the effectiveness of children’s services. ‘Good leaders give social workers the space to devote enough time and attention to children and families who need their help. That’s a consistent theme among the best council children’s services’.

When we inspect children’s services from next year, we will continue to ask leaders tough questions about the time they allow social workers to support children in care, and about what decisions they make that will ensure social work can flourish.

Read Eleanor Schooling’s blog at source: More dialogue and less focus on plans – local authority children’s services inspections from 2018

ADCS president Alison Michalska blog about her experience of the first pilot inspection:Read Keep calm, it’s only Ofsted!

Children and Young People Now piece: Ofsted rates council ‘good’ in trial of new inspection framework | Children & Young People Now

Ofsted judgements: The experiences and progress of children looked after and achieving permanence – focus on quality of IRO services

Eleanor Schooling: Culture creators and great managers

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