Inspectors have said that, while there are examples of good work, the pace of improvement is slow and not enough work is timely or effective.
The letter from Ofsted raises concerns about the number of caseloads allocated to social workers, staff turnover, and management.
Ofsted recognise that some of the changes that have been implemented have not yet had the time to deliver improvements. They also recognise that senior managers and staff are aware of areas or weakness and what needs to change.
Ofsted noted that from 1 July a new permanent Strategic Director of Children’s Services, Mark Douglas, will be in post. Mark has considerable experience of delivering improvement in social care and takes over from Gladys Rhodes White who had stepped in on an
interim basis whilst the authority recruited a new permanent director. They also acknowledge that politicians have committed significant resources to finance the improvements Ofsted require and that senior leaders have focused tenaciously on recruiting staff.
The letter raises concerns about the number of caseloads stating that they ‘vary from small numbers to over 50 children’. However, a review of caseloads has established that every social worker has a caseload of under 40 children. The Council accepts that this
is still too high and is working to further reduce it by improving the referral process in to children’s social care and the recruitment of additional social workers and managers.
The Council is implementing training programmes for staff and managers in Children’s Services to rapidly improve the quality of social work practice.
Monitoring visits are taking place every three months to assess how the Council is implementing improvements following the outcome of the Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services in September 2018.
The improvement arrangements are expected to take up to three years to fully implement. The Council is now working on a series of 12 week plans to deliver the necessary changes between each monitoring visit.
The action the Council will be focusing on before the next monitoring visit in September will be:
- Developing training and mentoring for staff to improve management skills and the consistency of social care work practice.
- Working with partners to provide clearer guidance on which cases are referred to social care.
- Continuing to focus on the recruitment of permanent staff.
Councillor Adrian Farley, Portfolio Holder for Children and Families, said:
“The outcome of the latest monitoring visit is obviously not good enough. We know the changes we need to make will take time, but we need to see more improvement and at a faster pace. The Council has developed a robust improvement plan and Ofsted recognise
that we have invested significant additional resources to deliver this.
"The fact that Ofsted acknowledge that our social work staff are very positive about working in Bradford, are aware of the services’ weaknesses, and are committed to the goal of improving practice for the children of Bradford gives us a foundation on which
Mark Douglas, Strategic Director of Children’s Services, said:
"It is important to stress that Ofsted found that urgent child protection concerns are recognised with the right action being taken and no child was found to be unsafe. But we know that the social care services we deliver to vulnerable children are not at the
level they need to be.
"While there has been some improvement there is a huge amount still to do. We know the areas we need to change and the actions we need to take to improve. We are working with effort and determination to get there.”