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County Council ‘Confident’ Ahead of Ofsted Inspection Next Year

Published on: 7 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 10 Dec, 2021

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

County councillors say they’re “confident” ahead of a watchdog’s inspection into Surrey County Council’s children’s services next year after the department was rated “inadequate” in 2018.

Ofsted handed the county council’s social services team inadequate ratings in 2015 and 2018, but the lead councillor for children and families told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (November 30) the authority had been through an “extensive transformation programme” and a recent monitoring visit had been positive.

The county council is responsible for education and children’s social care, and the two previous inspections showed the council was not doing enough to protect vulnerable children and those at risk of harm or neglect.

Councillor Clare Curran (Con, Bookham and Fetcham West), cabinet member for children and families, said while improvements had been made, the department was not complacent about the situation.

She said while some would look at a full revisit from Ofsted early in the new year with trepidation, she believed improvements were clear to see.

She said: “I think we will welcome Ofsted’s visit and be confident that the improvements in children’s services will be evident.

“I would like to extend really sincere thanks to our social workers, and in fact, all the staff in the wider children’s workforce, whatever role they might hold, for their dedication and their commitment, especially for the work they did during the pandemic.”

She said a monitoring visit in September which focused on care leavers recognised there had been progress and said it is widely acknowledged that these services can act as a barometer of work done with children and young people overall.

She added: “We are continuing unrelenting focus on driving up the quality of frontline social work and building strong relationships with children, young people and their families.”

An Ofsted report of the September visit was looking at areas of concern that had previously been identified including information available to young people on their entitlements and health history, the workloads of personal advisors in the leaving care teams, and the experiences and progress of young people leaving care.

The report stated that workloads were manageable, but there was some instability in the personal advisor roles because of high levels of sickness and a high turnover of staff. Young people now had access to relevant information.

It said a small number of young people did not receive their passports and National Insurance numbers quickly enough, and these delays had serious adverse impacts.

Cllr Fiona Davidson

Cllr Fiona Davidson (R4GV, Guildford South East) said:I believe that Surrey has made good progress on Children’s Services since the inadequate rating in 2018, but there was a very very long way to go.

“I’m not yet as confident as Cllr Curran that the county has turned the corner.

“I’ve read the Ofsted monitoring report in September, and although there are clear signs of improvement, there is certainly no reason for complacency. For example, the report identifies that young people who live outside the county find access to mental health support and other support services difficult to arrange.

“This is significant because in October 2021 a shocking 46 per cent of Surrey children were looked after outside Surrey, and 54 were living in unregulated accommodation. In fact, since 2019 Surrey has not made real progress in reducing this number.

“Given this situation, I hope Children’s Services will not be penalised by having to make savings as a result of budget pressures driven by Westminster.”

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