Dudley Council has been praised by Ofsted for its continued efforts to improve services for children and young people.
Following the latest monitoring visit by government inspectors in February, the council has received a letter which states the authority is making “positive progress” in a number of key areas.
It comes a year after the council’s children’s social care service - which includes adoption, fostering and child protection services - was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted.
The letter says staff morale is “good” and that social workers now have more time to see children because caseloads have “reduced significantly” and become more manageable.
Inspectors said the council continued to “appropriately address areas of concern” and that, as a result, a greater number of children were receiving “the right response at the right time”.
The letter said the council had taken immediate action to ensure “no child was unsafe” by setting up a new dedicated team to make sure no cases had been left unallocated to social workers.
It concluded that while there was still much to do, the management team were driving an “ambitious programme of improvement work to support positive change”.
Praise was given for a “back to basics” approach to training which had, inspectors said, led to an improved understanding of roles and responsibilities. The letter also said increased management supervision of social work practices was “starting to benefit children’s lives”.
Councillor Ian Cooper, cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“The positive comments in the report from inspectors are very welcome. We appreciate their vote of confidence that we are continuing to move in the right direction.
“We are delighted that implementation of a comprehensive ‘back to basics’ training programme for our staff continues to be highlighted as a positive move.
“It is pleasing Ofsted has recognised social worker caseloads are reducing. Most importantly, in all of the cases they inspected, no child was deemed to be unsafe. This is undoubtedly a much improved position for the council compared to where we were.”
Tony Oakman, strategic director for people said:
“We are not complacent and we agree with the inspectors that there is still a lot to do. There are robust plans in place and we are determined to keep striving to ensure that our children have access to the very best help they can get.”
During the monitoring visit, Ofsted reviewed the progress made in the areas of help and protection for young people in the borough. Electronic case records and supervision records were examined, while inspectors observed social workers and team managers and spoke to senior managers and parents.
It said while progress in many areas was positive, there was still further room for improvement.
There was still a “high number” of temporary social work staff, inspectors said, while the quality of social work assessments needs to improve to ensure a “consistent response” for all children.
But inspectors said they were confident such areas had already been identified as priorities by the council, and that work was already in progress to tackle them.
The council will continue to receive visits from Ofsted inspectors at regular intervals over the coming months as it continues to implement improvements.
Editor’s note: A full copy of the letter is available at https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/dudley
For more information contact: Wayne Beese, Communications, 01384 815506