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Relentless improvement praised by Ofsted as council upgraded to ‘Requires Improvement’

West Sussex Children’s Services has been upgraded to an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’ in its latest Ofsted inspection report, with ‘Good’ judgements for children in care and leadership and management.

15/05/23

Relentless improvement praised by Ofsted as council upgraded to ‘Requires Improvement’

Children’s Services in West Sussex have received an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’, showing improvement since its judgement of ‘Inadequate’ four years ago.

The report follows a two-week on-site inspection of the county council’s children’s services in March earlier this year.

“Services for children and families in West Sussex County Council have substantially improved since the inspection in 2019, when they were judged to be inadequate across all areas,” inspectors said, adding: “Corporate and political systemic weaknesses have been addressed and there is now a strong, determined and cohesive leadership team.”

Inspectors also praised the “relentless approach to improving practice” which has led to significant progress in some areas, such as the safeguarding and planning for unborn children, achieving permanence for children, and the effectiveness of quality assurance.

Ofsted also highlighted the “strong, determined and cohesive leadership team”, saying: “Leaders have a clear and realistic understanding of the further improvements needed to ensure that all children receive a consistently good service, and they are committed to and focused on continuing to lead the necessary improvements.”

Despite this, inspectors warned that there were still areas to improve, saying that there remain inconsistencies in children’s experiences, particularly in the assessment and intervention teams and family safeguarding service. This was diagnosed to be due to “turbulence in the system” following the implementation of whole-scale service change in 2022, but may also have been due to some high social worker caseloads and, until recently, turnover of staff in some teams. However, inspectors said this is now stabilising and, following a successful recent recruitment drive, caseloads are beginning to fall.

Jacquie Russell, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said she was delighted that Ofsted has recognised the huge progress we have made over the past four years.

“The outcome of this inspection is testament to the determination and hard work of all our staff across Children’s Services and the County Council. We have been relentless in our approach to put children first and drive sustained improvement within our services.

“We know we have more work to do so all our children and young people receive a good level of service. Ofsted have recognised our commitment to make further improvements and these areas are being addressed as part of our new continuous improvement plan and the West Sussex County Council priority to keep people safe from vulnerable situations.”

Paul Marshall, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “Over the past four years, we have made significant investment in our services and ensured the political and corporate weaknesses reported in 2019 have been fully addressed. I am pleased Ofsted can see the positive changes both corporately and politically which is acknowledged in their report.

“I would like to thank our members, staff, partners and our Commissioner John Coughlan for their unwavering support and scrutiny which has supported us to get to this position and will enable our ongoing improvement journey.”

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