Ofsted released their findings this morning following an unannounced inspection in February of West Sussex County Council’s arrangements for the protection of children. The overall effectiveness of the arrangements was found adequate – “a service that is doing what is required to keep young people and children safe”.
The previous inspection on children’s safeguarding was found inadequate – “a service that does not meet minimum requirements”.
Cabinet Member for Children and Families Peter Evans said: “Following the last disappointing inspection, I’m pleased to say that officers and Members alike have worked extremely hard to raise our game and as a result it is pleasing to note that we are making progress and have been ranked as adequate.
“It is even more pleasing when you consider that Ofsted recently changed their inspection process, which is now recognised as being much more rigorous with a much higher bar, and so even more difficult to achieve a higher ranking.
“We recognise there is still a long way to go, and we will not be resting on our laurels. We want to continue to improve, and our improvement plan and the measures put in place reflect that. My thanks to all our officers who have worked extremely hard to raise the standard at the County Council.”
Since the last inspection the Council implemented an improved an improvement plan with monthly meetings to keep councillors informed of progress.
The report said: “‘The council has a clear improvement plan to address recommendations from the 2010 safeguarding and looked after children inspection and accelerate its existing children’s delivery programme.
“The Leader of the Council has ensured that the highest priority has been given to the improvement plan which continues to be subject to rigorous internal and external scrutiny. The Chief Executive Officer and Director of Children’s Services, supported by unambiguous commitment by the Leader, Cabinet and elected members have achieved improvements from a very low baseline to assure themselves that improvements are sustainable. The council has laid the platform for continued improvement through a number of measures including the appointment of a Head of Children’s Services, continued internal and external scrutiny and investment in staffing.”
The report continued: “The council has appropriately prioritised improvements in its referral and assessment response. A far-reaching restructuring has seen the introduction of the CAP (Children’s Access Point) in June 2011. While the council has been successful in improving timeliness and quality, it is aware that much work remains to be done. For example, re-referral rates remain too high and the quality of assessments needs further improvement. The local authority and its partners are implementing ambitious strategies for further development, such as the Troubled Families initiative.” In West Sussex this is being delivered through the Think Family programme.
The report recognised the work of the independently chaired Local Safeguarding Children Board as well, saying it had ‘improved significantly’ with ‘evidence of accelerated improvement in effectiveness in the last year in particular’. The report added ‘however, these improvements require consolidation over a sustained period to ensure the realisation of their full potential’.
At today’s County Council meeting members of all parties welcomed the report and congratulated all those who helped to achieve the improvement. Councillors look forward to a continuing progression to achieve next a good rating and ultimately an excellent one.