Ofsted recommends how Nottinghamshire County Council can improve social work services

Inspectors have told Nottinghamshire County Council it needs to deliver and record ‘consistent’ and ‘determined’ work with children and improve the way it checks cases.

Education watchdog Ofsted made a series of recommendations after visiting the authority’s children’s services department in April.

The visit, which was not qualified as an official inspection, focused on the arrangements made by the municipality for children in need or under a child protection plan.

The visit itself plays no part in the department’s wider Ofsted rating, which is “good” overall after a 2019 inspection.

However, the 2019 assessment found that the experiences and progress of children in need of help and protection needed improvement, and the April visit was carried out to define what changes the council should make.

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During the April visit, Ofsted inspectors found that although children are ‘supported to the right level of need’, the direction of visits is ‘not always sufficiently targeted, time-limited or detailed”.

They also found that quality of care plans are “varied” and sometimes “lacks precision and does not allow for meaningful measurement of progress.”

And inspectors said there were “missed opportunities” to use wider family child support to protect and help children in the care of the authority.

The authority says new standards are being developed to address these concerns and improve the wider quality of care received by children in need.

Inspectors also noted that a new approach to auditing has been launched by the authority, meaning “very few” cases have been audited in the past six months.

They say the audit does not provide leaders with a “reliable line of sight” to improve support for children or to identify learning and improvements within the department.

The council says this is something it is currently working on, with 261 audits planned by the end of 2022.

In making recommendations for improvement, Ofsted said the authority should provide “consistent provision and recording of direct and targeted work with children”.

He added that the department should improve “the quantity and quality of case audits and their impact on identifying improvements” both for the benefit of its staff and the children in its care.

The Board confirmed that it has an action plan to follow up on the recommendations and improve the quality of its service.

Amanda Collinson is the Council’s Director of Support, Care and Protection Services.

In a report, she said: ‘While progress has been made over the past two years…in Nottinghamshire, the development of a revised set of standards of practice is seen as a key step in bringing progress in a more consistent best practices.

“The standards are currently in draft. The standards cover direct work, determination, child focus, family networks and quality of plans.

“A standards introduction and integration plan is being finalized and will include learning sets and the launch of a live-work toolkit.”

She adds that this will “set minimum expectations” of good practice, create something to refer to when delivering social work services and highlight board priorities.

“The impact on practice, and on the experience of children and families, of the introduction of the revised standards of practice should be seen in quality assurance activities, including case audits,” said she added.

“In particular, we will be looking for evidence of improved consistency of practice.”

Further work to address the audit issues is also due to be released in January next year, including a new “framework” to ensure that “lessons learned from audits translate into action and improvement”.

The department will complete 261 audits by the end of December, and the council hopes the quality of its social work audit will improve further over time.

Members of the Children and Young People’s Select Committee will discuss Ofsted’s recommendations on Monday October 10 and decide whether further action is needed.

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