Ofsted highlights progress in Somerset

Somerset County Council’s children’s services have been used as an example of good practice in Ofsted’s latest national annual report.

In its third annual report into the state of social care in England, the watchdog highlights the authority’s focus on manageable workloads, saying Somerset “has recognised the importance of reducing the workloads of its social workers.”

Since Somerset was rated as inadequate by Ofsted in March 2015, the County Council and partner agencies have worked tirelessly to improve the services they provide to children, young people and families. This has included:

  • Reduced social work caseloads – down from 20 to an average of 14
  • The recruitment of 44 permanent new social workers – as well as 26 new graduate social workers having joined the authority
  • Reduced social worker turnover rate – down from a 20 per cent ratio to 14 per cent, making it below the national average

One of the key themes in Ofsted’s latest report points towards good leadership being crucial in improving the lives of children in care. Somerset County Council recognised this following their previous inspection and appointed a permanent team of senior managers – providing stability and leadership.

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Somerset County Council, said: “I’m pleased that the progress we have made has been recognised as a case study of how local authorities can improve in Ofsted’s Social Care Annual Report. We are fully aware that we have a long way to go in our improvement journey, but this highlights to us that we are heading in the right direction.

“We report our progress regularly to the Department for Education (DfE) and our improvement partners at Essex County Council. We have recently completed the third of our quarterly review meetings with representatives from both organisations, who agree that we are moving in the right direction.

“This positive feedback from Ofsted, DfE and Essex is testament to the hard work and dedication to the whole children’s workforce in Somerset – whether working for the County Council or any of our numerous partners. Thank you to the whole workforce for everything that they do every day for children and young people.”

Bradley Simmons, Ofsted South West Director, said: “One of the key themes in the Social Care Annual Report is about how good leadership is crucial in bringing about better outcomes for children in care. Effective leadership creates a structure and supportive culture that enables social work to flourish.

“I am pleased that Somerset council, which was judged inadequate by Ofsted twice in two years, has recognised the importance of reducing workloads for its social workers. It has recruited more permanent staff, as well as new graduate social workers. This has resulted in caseloads being reduced by close to a third and the turnover rate for social workers has dropped from 20 per cent to 14 per cent.”