Swindon’s Children’s Services rated as ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted

Council leaders have vowed to make urgent improvements to the services that help and protect children after they were judged to be ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted.

Published: Monday, 11th September 2023

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Inspectors visited Swindon Borough Council between 17 and 28 July and graded the overall effectiveness of its Children’s Services department as ‘Inadequate’.

The report, which has been published today (11 Sep) on the Ofsted website judged the services against four key criteria:

  • The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families – Inadequate
  • The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection – Inadequate
  • The experiences and progress of children in care – Inadequate
  • The experiences and progress of care leavers – Requires Improvement to be Good

In its report, Ofsted noted “a significant deterioration in the quality and impact of services for children in Swindon” since the last inspection in 2019 where services were given an overall grading of ‘Good’.

Although inspectors highlighted areas of strong practice in services for disabled children, those on the edge of care, those who are privately fostered and children who receive services from the virtual school, there were a number of weaknesses identified.

The report says “too many children are left with unassessed needs and risks and plans that drift, and they experience too many changes of social worker” and that “children are not matched with permanent carers quickly enough”.

Recognising work is already underway to improve services, the report added: “The new Corporate Director of Children’s Services has recently led a more rigorous and accurate appraisal of the quality of service provision.

“With the backing of corporate and political leaders, this has led to work to strengthen services. While this is positive, these developments are largely very recent and so had not, at the time of this inspection, had a significant impact.”

Ofsted inspectors reviewed a Council action plan that is already being progressed to improve services, which will also be referenced at the Council’s Cabinet next week when it meets to discuss Ofsted’s latest findings (20 Sep).

As evidence of the corporate and political leadership team’s commitment to improvements, the Ofsted report highlights the decision to bring social work pay and foster carer allowances up to the same level as most other local authorities in the South West. It also acknowledges the work underway to develop a new strategy to ensure the Council offers the right mix of foster care, children’s homes and supported accommodation to meet the future needs of local young people.

Councillor Jim Robbins, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “Ensuring children and young people across Swindon get the best possible care and support is one of the most critical responsibilities of this Council.

“Ofsted’s judgement confirms the significant work ahead of us to get services to where they need to be. At the time of the inspection, Ofsted was able to review the improvement plan already in place and the work that is underway to strengthen services.

“Accelerating these improvements must now be the Council’s highest priority, overseen by an improvement board that will brings together the necessary leadership, expertise and scrutiny to ensure we are meeting our targets.”

Sam Mowbray, Chief Executive of Swindon Borough Council, said: “We fully accept the findings from Ofsted and are clear on the improvement journey ahead which is already in progress.

“The inspectors recognised the existing improvement plan in place but it is our job now to ensure this translates as quickly as possible into a consistent standard of care and support being provided to children and young people across Swindon.

“The changes will be overseen by a new improvement board including representatives from the political and corporate leadership, partners and the Department for Education.”

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