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Surrey Children’s Services ‘Will Not Stand Still’ After Latest Ofsted Report

Published on: 14 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 15 Mar, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Surrey County Council “will not stand still” after Ofsted inspectors rated its children’s services as requiring improvement in its latest report.

The report, released this week, shows the department requires improvement in order to be good in all areas but noted an overall improvement since the last full inspection in 2018 when it was rated inadequate.

Inspectors highlighted leaders’ determination to continue progress but said there were six areas which still needed improvement, including accommodation for young people, including care leavers, the quality and effectiveness of assessments and plans for all children, and the proportion of permanent staff.

The report said: “Services are no longer inadequate, but despite accelerated improvements since 2018, overall progress has been slow since services were first judged inadequate in 2015.”

Cllr Clare Curran

Clare Curran, cabinet member for children’s services, said the overwhelming feeling at the council was being glad that Ofsted had recognised the progress that had been made.

She said: “We have to acknowledge that we still don’t get everything right, that there is still more work for us to do.

“We’re not going to stand still, we’re going to listen again to our children and their families and our workforce as we strive to move forward.”

Cllr Curran said the motivation to continue to improve was not to meet regulatory requirements, but to do the best for Surrey’s children and young people and their families while recognising that record keeping and recording is also part of the process to improve.

She said: “It was Surrey’s journey for Surrey’s children.

“Ofsted and the Department for Education are important and they have their place. But the motivation for that improvement was to do better, to do the best for children.”

Ofsted will normally reinspect within three years, by which point Cllr Curran said she would expect services to be at least rated “good”.

She said that while it would have been “lovely” for Ofsted to come in January and rate the service as outstanding: “We have to be realistic. The journey of improvement is not achieved overnight.”

Cllr Curran acknowledged the report showed inconsistencies across services remain, including across family safeguarding teams and caseloads which vary significantly between teams.

The report also said a very small number of adult care leavers were temporarily living in bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation and that senior managers were not “sufficiently proactive in tackling the use of inappropriate accommodation for care leavers by a very small number of district councils”.

Cllr Curran said the council’s role as corporate parents for the young people in its care meant the council needed to be “unrelenting” with partners they were working with.

She pointed to the county council’s plans to build three new children’s homes, each with the capacity to look after four children, saying the authority was not just “leaving it to other people”.

She said the council had “done a lot of really focused partnership work” as a result of the report highlighting that leaders were working with other agencies after several tragic incidents of young people taking their own life in the council.

Surrey’s senior coroner concluded social services failed to appreciate the seriousness of Oskar Nash’s situation before he took his own life in 2020, and pointed to a lack of adequate sharing of information between agencies involved.

Cllr Curran said: “When a young person takes their own life that’s one of the most tragic events that you could possibly imagine for any family and my heart goes out to those families.

“We have done a lot of really focused partnership work as a group to look at that specific issue. And we are taking that so seriously and the coroner’s recommendations from the latest hearing.”

Cllr Curran said she wanted to extend her “most sincere and heartfelt thanks to all our staff and all the children’s workers from the leadership down to our most junior members of staff for everything that they have done.”

What needs to improve?

The report showed six areas which needed to be improved. They are:

  • the quality and effectiveness of assessments and plans for all children, including disabled children, homeless 16- and 17-year-olds and privately fostered children
  • partnership work to secure support for children and young people’s mental health and well-being
  • the provision of essential information to carers about children, and viability
    assessments to inform placements with friends or family
  • the sufficiency of suitable accommodation for young people, including care
    leavers
  • the quality and impact of supervision to ensure that decisions are timely and
    support the progression of children’s plans
  • the proportion of permanent staff, to reduce turnover.

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