Ofsted has praised “the swift and decisive action to improve services for children and young people in Swindon” after a recent inspection.
Ofsted was so impressed by the rapid rate of improvement within Swindon Borough Council’s Children’s Services department, it judged Children’s Services to be providing the children and families of Swindon with a ‘good’ service.
The two-week inspection of the services that help and protect children took place at the beginning of July. Inspectors carried out an in-depth look at everything the Council does to protect children in the Borough and judged the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families to be ‘good’.
Ofsted wrote: “Services to respond to children in need of help and protection are now good. Arrangements to facilitate the delivery of consistently good services for children in care are firmly in place.”
The reported added: “Governance arrangements have been strengthened, and a new chief executive and lead member have been appointed. Political leaders have ensured that there is corporate commitment across all Directorates to the wider children’s safeguarding agenda in Swindon.
“The quality of leadership and management at all levels in Swindon is a key strength and the senior leadership team is ambitious, energetic and assured in the oversight and delivery of services to children and their families. Senior leaders have demonstrated a good awareness of weaknesses, as well as strengths in the performance and quality of practice. Improvements have now been sustained in most areas of practice.
“There has been a significant increase in the financial investment in children’s services. This has been effectively targeted and translated into a range of additional services and management capacity across the service.”
Inspectors also noted how more children and families are receiving support through the newly-created Early Help Hub and how an increase in preventative services has reduced the number of children and families needing statutory support.
The Council’s ‘Good’ judgement replaces the previous ‘Requires Improvement’ rating, which was awarded following an inspection in 2014.
The latest Ofsted report notes: “Following his appointment, the DCS (Director of Children’s Services) recognised that the quality of practice in Swindon declined following the inspection in 2014. Since then, however, there has been significant improvement, and, in the last 12 months, senior leaders have taken resolute action to improve the quality of services in Swindon.
“Decisive and well-targeted action has been taken to address all areas of weakness identified in focused visits in 2018 and 2019. The quality of practice in Swindon has significantly improved from a low base, and recently the pace of improvement has been swift and actions have been well targeted.”
Ofsted also recognised improvements to the quality of supervision and management oversight, and that caseloads had halved. Ofsted was impressed with the high staff morale and the commitment and dedication of staff working with children and young people
Ofsted recognised the improvements that have been put in place for children in care and care leavers and agreed with senior managers that a continued focus in this area is needed to make sure the services are consistently good.
The Council has been asked to address four action points to improve services in this area including ensuring there are a sufficient number of local placements to meet the needs of older children and those with complex needs, and improving the way care leavers are prepared for independent living.
David Haley, Swindon Borough Council’s Corporate Director of Children’s Services, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Ofsted has recognised the significant improvements that have taken place across Children’s Services that ensure that children and families get a good service when they need it.
“It is heartening that Ofsted recognise that we know ourselves well and have addressed all of the priorities from previous inspections. The report recognises that staff morale is high with a strong learning culture and conditions that help social workers to do a good job. This is testament to the determination, commitment and hard work of staff across the Council.”
Councillor Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, said: “This is a wonderful endorsement of the hard work that is taking place to improve the services we provide for children, young people and families in Swindon.
“It is fair to say that the team have risen to the challenges of previous Ofsted inspections. Since the last full inspection in 2014 the number of children coming into care has risen by a third which is well above the national average. But significant investment by the Cabinet, coupled with outstanding leadership within the service, has turned the department around and Ofsted has recognised we are providing good services for children, which is ultimately what we are all here to do.
“This is just the start and we have a clear focus on the areas Ofsted has identified that need to improve further. We will continue to ensure the excellent work that has taken place over the last two years is embedded so we continue our journey of continuous improvement and make our services the best they can be.”
A copy of the Ofsted report can be viewed here.