‘Building blocks’ in place to improve West Sussex children’s services

Many of the building blocks for improving West Sussex children’s services have recently been put into place or are imminent, according to inspectors.

Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 10:54 am
County Hall Chichester

Many of the building blocks for improving West Sussex children’s services have recently been put into place or are imminent, according to inspectors.

West Sussex County Council received an ‘inadequate’ rating back in May 2019 with children’s services now in the process of being transferred to an independent trust.

However until that happens in October 2021, improvements are being made across the board, Ofsted has confirmed after its most recent monitoring visit back in October, which focused on the service’s response to Covid-19.

The inspectors’ report was mostly good news, but there were some areas standards need to improve as ‘at times the pace of change and the impact on children have not been sufficient’.

One of the examples given was how too few disabled children are receiving help and support based on an assessment of their current needs, with work to address this being ‘very slow’.

On the other hand, strengthened corporate and partnership working had resulted in vulnerable children receiving targeted support during the pandemic.

The joined up approach had enabled an ‘effective response’ to the emerging challenges, with higher than national average school attendance and an early return to face-to-face visits.

Staff reported feeling well supported with equipment, flexible working and help from their managers.

Meanwhile progress has been made to ‘varying degrees’ in response to serious safeguarding concerns identified in early 2019.

A permanent senior leadership team was seen as a positive development after a period of instability and change.

The report noted how ‘many of the building blocks for improvement have recently been put into place or are imminent’, adding: “Practitioners are tentatively optimistic about the future. They have noticed and welcomed a shift in culture and the increased visibility of managers.

“Management oversight and supervision, while mostly regular, are not consistently addressing the lack of progress of plans to ensure that children’s daily lives are improved.”

Jacquie Russell, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We are grateful to the inspection team for the time they spent reviewing the work our teams have been doing to improve our services. Putting children first is at the heart of what we do, and ensuring we provide the best service to our most vulnerable children and young people is critical.

“I am grateful too for the report’s findings on areas that require further improvement and work is ongoing to address these as part of our continuous development plan. Whilst we cannot underestimate the significant amount of work which still needs to be done to improve our services, and the financial challenges we face as a local authority, the report highlighted that we know our service well, and with our permanent senior leadership team and the continuing hard work of our staff, our improvement partner and others we work closely with, we are in a position to move forward and accelerate the pace of our improvement work.”