Ofsted praises West Sussex County Council for its relentless approach to improving practice

Children’s Services has been given an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’ in the latest Ofsted inspection report, with ‘good’ judgements for children in care and leadership and management.

Ofsted Inspectors have praised West Sussex County Council for its ‘relentless approach to improving practice’ in Children’s Services.

The comment comes from Ofsted’s latest inspection which gave the service an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’, with ‘good’ judgements for children in care and leadership and management. The judgements on children needing help and protection and children leaving care are they ‘require improvement to be good’.

The report follows a two-week on-site inspection of the county council’s Children’s Services, in March 2023 when inspectors focused on the effectiveness of Children’s Services to support:

The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families
Inspectors praised the relentless approach to improving practice. They highlighted the ‘strong, determined and cohesive leadership team’ who have made significant improvements since the last full inspection of Children’s Services in 2019 which had judged all areas as inadequate.

The key findings from the report were:

Most children coming into care make good progress
The voice of children and young people is strong and well-considered in decision-making
Early Help support is making a positive difference to children’s lives
Staff benefit from a wide range of support, and training and development opportunities; and feel valued
The implementation of the new Family Safeguarding practice model has been carefully considered with clear plans for the next steps
Partnership working is improving, although there is more to do
Leaders have been determined to shift the organisational culture and put children first
Practice in some teams is variable and more work is needed to ensure all children receive a consistent service
The advice and support provided to care leavers aged 21 and over requires improvement
Placement choice for children who are looked after requires improvement
There needs to be a stronger response to specific children aged 16 and 17 who present as homeless or who are missing from home
Jacquie Russell, Cabinet Member for children and young people, said: “I am 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: “This council has been resolute in its commitment to improving our Children’s Services.

“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.”