Recruiting experienced social workers ‘remains a problem’

An Ofsted surveillance visit to St Helens Children’s Services took place on 13th and 14th December.

A letter from an inspector summarized the results of the surveillance visit.

It was the fifth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged “inadequate” in September 2019.


At its meeting on Wednesday, the council’s cabinet is recommended to take note of the Ofsted letter and the improvements made and the “continuous improvement path the service is on”.

The inspectors reviewed the progress made on a number of problem areas identified during previous visits.

These were the assessment and planning for children in need and children subject to child protection plans, senior management’s assurance of the quality of practice and outcomes for children at St Helens, and the stability of the workforce and how this relates to meeting the needs of affects children.

What the letter says

The letter said: “There has been some progress in most areas since the November 2021 surveillance visit, which focused on children in need and children subject to a child protection plan.

“This means that some children do not always receive a service in a timely manner that meets their identified needs.

“The needs of most children are well addressed in comprehensive child and family assessments. The assessments almost always include relevant history, parental trauma, and cumulative harm, and weigh the risks and protective factors to inform next steps.

“Children’s voices are collected and, for some children, they feed into the decision-making process. However, for most children, social workers do not always grasp what life is like for the child, how they understand what is happening for them, or what they want to change.”

The letter also states that since the November 2021 follow-up visit, the quality of planning and written plans has improved for most children.

“When new risks to children emerge, action is taken quickly to ensure they are protected,” she adds.

“Conversely, when risks to children decrease, action is taken quickly to ensure the level of intervention is proportionate.”

The letter also states that the local authority knows exactly what needs to change to improve the lives of children in St Helens.

It also said recruiting experienced social workers for St Helens “remains an area of ​​concern”.

It adds: “During this visit, the inspectors noted that the turnover of social workers has recently decreased.

‘Drift and Lag’

“However, there are still too many children who experience discrepancies and delays in effectively reviewing their plans and having their needs met because of the frequent rotation of social workers and the children’s ‘reboot’ process.

“The local authority, with the support of the whole council, has taken proactive steps to increase recruitment and hopes to have a permanent workforce by early 2023.

“Social workers report that being supervised by their supervisor gives them an opportunity to reflect on their practice and consider barriers to the children’s plans being implemented.

“However, this is not always reflected in the written care protocols.

“Social workers commented positively on the visibility and accessibility of the new leadership team, their involvement in the improvement journey, the sense of being valued by senior leaders and how much they enjoy working for St. Helens.” Recruiting experienced social workers ‘remains a problem’

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