The Council has a “positive organisational culture and is making continuous progress” find InspectorsPublished Monday, 13th March 2017
Staff morale has been singled out for praise at Rotherham Council as part of a routine Ofsted inspection.
Just over two years ago Rotherham was given an inadequate rating by inspectors following on from issues around its handling of child sexual exploitation.
But in a second monitoring visit letter published today inspectors have praised the authority for the “positive organisational culture” which is now in children’s services.
The inspectors report looks into how the council is working to improve itself, reporting “the council is making continuous progress in improving services for children in need of help and protection” and “staff are highly committed and motivated and they report feeling valued”.
Ian Thomas, Rotherham Council’s Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services said: “To be told you have a positive organisational culture is something which you just can’t buy and certainly two years ago we would never have believed we would be hearing. Here in Rotherham we have some of the most loyal, dedicated and highly motivated staff I have ever seen. Everyone has the same goal – to turn the ship around and make Rotherham the best it can be and put the past firmly in the past.
“In the last year we have introduced a hugely successful recruitment and retention scheme. We recognised the main issues facing social workers and tackled them head on. This has included a complete reorganisation of our offer – making smaller teams based in localities; better management structures and supervision and development opportunities. But the best thing we have done is to cut caseloads so now they are much more manageable and we monitor this on a daily basis.”
And it is this which has secured the biggest praise from inspectors in this latest report. The work which has been done to increase recruitment and retention of social workers has pushed the council above the national average – despite the hard climate councils are currently competing in.
The swift action taken to ensure children’s immediate safeguarding needs are identified and secured was also singled out for praise, as well as evidence of improvement in working with agencies including the police.
The inspectors also praised the steady improvement in the council’s early help offer. The co-location of multi-agency professionals has strengthened partnership arrangements helping to break down previous communication barriers, they said.
However, although inspectors also said the quality of the early help assessments was getting better, numbers which are being completed by partners, including the police, health and schools, still remain low and this needed to change. They also said more needed to be done to conduct police interviews with social workers present, in order to cut down the number of times a child has to tell their story.
Other areas which inspectors said still needed improvement included the quality of children’s plans and the interventions they receive. And they said performance data needed refining, with improved analysis and explanation of the data to make it more accessible.
Cllr Gordon Watson, Rotherham Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services said: “We welcome the inspectors’ findings and hope it helps turn around future ratings, but we need to remember we still have a long way to go as we are just two years into a five year journey.”
Since the council was given its inadequate rating in October 2014 Ofsted has visited Rotherham several times, including on four improvement visits.
This newest report is the second monitoring visit, and comes just months after Ofsted inspectors noted improvements in how the council now deals with child sexual exploitation.