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Council’s Children’s Services praised by Ofsted for support to vulnerable children during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped Swindon Borough Council’s Children’s Services team from providing a good and effective service to vulnerable children and young people.

Published: Monday, 1st February 2021
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That is the view of Ofsted, after five of Her Majesty’s Inspectors carried out a week-long focused inspection of the department just before Christmas. The visit came after Ofsted rated the department as ‘Good’ following a full two-week inspection of services in July 2019.

In a letter published today (1 Feb), inspectors described the Council’s response to the pandemic as “comprehensive and timely”. They added that the Council had ensured that services to children and families had continued to be effective.

Ofsted highlighted in the report that: “Decision-making is timely and appropriate actions are taken to protect vulnerable children. Management oversight and the rationale for decision-making is well recorded. Thresholds for statutory action are appropriately applied, with managers and social workers demonstrating a clear understanding of risk.

“Effective leadership has ensured that the needs of children and families have been carefully considered and responded to during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vulnerable children have been identified, and schools and the local authority have worked closely together to encourage attendance.”

The regulatory body also praised the work of social workers stating that the levels of contact between children, their families, carers and social workers were carefully considered, and face-to-face contact was only reduced when the Council considered that the impact of this on children would be limited.

“Social workers and other staff have continued to visit families in their homes, and when necessary intervened to improve the lives of children,” the letter states.

Inspectors reported that social work practice had continued to improve through an embedded quality assurance process well led by the Council’s Corporate Director of Children’s Services.

The letter added: “During lockdown periods and despite pressures caused by the pandemic, the local authority has continued to safeguard children effectively by removing them from harmful situations, through either voluntary agreements or through applications to court. This includes careful consideration of the needs of unborn children.

“Children in care benefit from social workers who know their children well and have developed positive relationships with them. Social work staff often have a good understanding of children’s needs.”

Inspectors highlighted that children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) in placements outside of Swindon should be found school places more quickly and that the reviews of some children who are missing education should be undertaken more often. The department has immediately addressed the action points raised by Ofsted.

Councillor Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “This letter is a wonderful endorsement of the work that has been taking place right across our Children’s Services department for a number of years and is reflective of our improvement journey.

“For Ofsted to say that we continue to provide effective services during the pandemic and have continued our improvement since the last inspection, despite the challenges colleagues are facing, is high praise indeed.

“The whole team should be extremely proud of the work they are doing and I am sure it will only inspire them to continue to go the extra mile to support vulnerable children and to keep them safe.”

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