Ofsted ‘inadequate' council reduces social work caseloads by 30 per cent

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A council where children's services were last year rated "inadequate" by Ofsted has succeeded in recruiting scores of new social workers and reducing caseloads by 30 per cent, it has emerged.

Somerset County Council was rated inadequate by Ofsted for the second time in the space of two years last March.

The government did consider using its powers to take children’s services out of the council's control, but, following a report by current president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Dave Hill, it granted the authority until May 2016 to implement an action plan and develop a three-year plan.

A report drawn up for the local authority’s cabinet, which gives an update on progress over the last 12 months, states that the nine-point action plan has been completed and the focus is now on delivering the three-year strategy.

It reveals that a total of 44 permanent new social workers have been recruited, as well as 26 new graduate social workers. Meanwhile, the social worker turnover rate has been reduced from 20 per cent to 14 per cent.

As a result, social work caseloads have been reduced from an average of 20.5 in May 2015 to an average of 14 now – a reduction of 31.7 per cent.

Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s lead member for children’s services, said: “I am very well aware that there is still a huge amount of work to do. All our staff and our partners know what needs to be done and I am very pleased with how hard everyone is working to improve services for children and to get as far as we have over the last 12 months.

“Protecting children isn’t just the responsibility of the county council, and we have worked closely with our many partners, including police and health colleagues, to make these improvements and lay firm foundations to build on.

“A stable workforce is vital and very difficult to achieve when there is a desperate national shortage of social workers and authorities across the country are competing to recruit. We are recruiting successfully now because we have put our children’s services on the map. People know what we are doing and know that if they join us they can really make a difference.

“Just as importantly, we are also seeing fewer social workers leaving us and that’s another indication that we’re moving in the right direction.”

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