Ministerial praise for progress in Children’s Services

Key Somerset County Councillors heard of Ministerial praise of ‘significant’ and ‘tangible’ improvements in its Children’s Services.

Cabinet members were updated on progress in the service, which included a letter from Edward Timpson, the Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, to Leader of the council, John Osman.

The letter follows four reviews by a team from Essex County Council and refers to significant improvements, more manageable caseloads, a more stable workforce and better partnership working.

“These changes have led to tangible improvements in social work practice, resulting in children and families receiving a considerably better service…”

“This feedback is very welcome,” said Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet member for Children and Families. “We are anything but complacent and there is a still a long way to go and much work to do. But this confirms that we are moving forward as result of the hard work of our staff and partners.

Cllr Osman added: “We have a vital role in child protection but cannot do it on our own. Safeguarding vulnerable children is everyone’s responsibility and it’s pleasing to see that the Minister’s letter includes reference to better partnership working.

“We understand what a priority these services are which is why we have put in the extra resources that were needed to drive up standards and our staff are committed to seeing the work through. I thank staff for all their hard work so far and for that which is still to come.”

In March 2015 the Council’s Children’s Services were judged by Ofsted to be inadequate for the second consecutive time. A team from Essex County Council has been working with Somerset since then to support its work. Quarterly performance review meetings started in November 2015 and the outcomes of these are reported back to the Minister. The latest took place in November 2016.

In May 2015, the Council committed an extra £6m over three years to its Children’s Services to drive forward improvements.

Reducing caseloads and improving the ratio of permanent to locum staff is key to improvement. Following a recruitment drive, permanent staff currently account for 66 per cent of Children’s Social workers.

The council continues to recruit to many rewarding social work roles and successfully leading the regional Step Up to Social Work programme which encourages talented graduates to become part of the next generation of social workers.

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