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Council leaders vow to make urgent improvements after ‘Inadequate’ judgement

Inspectors graded Swindon Borough Council Children’s Services with the lowest rating following a visit earlier this year.

18/09/23

Council leaders vow to make urgent improvements after ‘Inadequate’ judgement

Swindon Borough Council’s Children’s Services have been rated as ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted, following a visit between 17 and 28 July.

The report, which was published last week, graded the overall effectiveness of its Children’s Services department with its lowest grade of ‘Inadequate’.

Three out of the four areas inspected were given the lowest grade. The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families; the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection; and the experiences and progress of children in care were all judged to be ‘Inadequate’. The experiences and progress of care leavers, however, was judged slightly better as ‘Requires Improvement to be Good’.

In its report, Ofsted noted “a significant deterioration in the quality and impact of services for children in Swindon” since the last inspection in 2019 where services were given an overall grading of ‘Good’.

The report found “too many children are left with unassessed needs and risks and plans that drift, and they experience too many changes of social worker” and that “children are not matched with permanent carers quickly enough”.

Inspectors did, however, highlight areas of strong practice in services for disabled children, those on the edge of care, those who are privately fostered and children who receive services from the virtual school, there were a number of weaknesses identified.

Recognising work is already underway to improve services, the report added that the new Corporate Director of Children’s Services has recently led a more rigorous and accurate appraisal of the quality of service provision.

“With the backing of corporate and political leaders, this has led to work to strengthen services. While this is positive, these developments are largely very recent and so had not, at the time of this inspection, had a significant impact.”

The Council’s Cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday (20 September) to discuss the findings and review an action plan being progressed to improve services. The changes will also be overseen by a new improvement board including representatives from the political and corporate leadership, partners and the Department for Education.

Councillor Jim Robbins, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said that improving these services will be the “highest priority”.

“Ensuring children and young people across Swindon get the best possible care and support is one of the most critical responsibilities of this Council.

“Ofsted’s judgement confirms the significant work ahead of us to get services to where they need to be. At the time of the inspection, Ofsted was able to review the improvement plan already in place and the work that is underway to strengthen services.

“Accelerating these improvements must now be the Council’s highest priority, overseen by an improvement board that will brings together the necessary leadership, expertise and scrutiny to ensure we are meeting our targets.”

Sam Mowbray, Chief Executive of Swindon Borough Council, said: “We fully accept the findings from Ofsted and are clear on the improvement journey ahead which is already in progress.

“The inspectors recognised the existing improvement plan in place but it is our job now to ensure this translates as quickly as possible into a consistent standard of care and support being provided to children and young people across Swindon.”

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