Children’s services at Surrey County Council have been on a “significant improvement journey” and “senior leaders have responded swiftly to the challenges of COVID-19”, according to a letter published by Ofsted following a focused visit in March. The letter states that “a stable senior leadership team and the recently appointed director of children’s services have ensured that progress has continued”.
The focused visit looked at how the Surrey social care system has delivered child-centred practice and care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ofsted observed that multi-agency working was strengthened to ensure that the needs of children and their families were identified and responded to, and effective partnerships with education and health colleagues have ensured that vulnerable children have been seen and their safety ascertained early in the pandemic.
In response to emerging needs, additional staff have been redeployed to the children’s single point of access (C-SPA) and the emergency duty team. Youth workers, social workers, family group conference practitioners and staff from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) now provide out-of-hours interventions to families in crisis.
Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council said:
“This latest publication from Ofsted recognises the continuous improvement of Surrey’s children’s services, which is particularly encouraging given the additional challenges of the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is always more to do, but I am confident that we will continue to build on this positive improvement journey across our services for our children, young people and families.”
Ofsted were encouraged to see a clear focus on meeting the emotional needs of children in care and care leavers and the letter states that “there is early access to a range of emotional well-being services as well as a dedicated (CAMHS) team for children in care”.
The published letter also noted that Surrey County Council and school leaders work together effectively to oversee and monitor children who are missing education, “the low number of children missing education is testament to the tenacity of leaders in ensuring that children continue to access education”. Following a year with significant disruption to education, it is positive that Ofsted recognised efforts to minimise the impact on some of the most vulnerable children and young people and found that, “the virtual school provides effective support to enable children in care to attend school” and “the attendance of children in care and those with a social worker has been good”.
Since being judged as ‘inadequate’ in May 2018, Surrey’s children’s services have had regular visits from Ofsted and are continuing to deliver an ambitious improvement plan. Surrey’s children’s services are committed to tackling the areas for development highlighted and has taken quick action to support improvement in management oversight and case planning in the children with disability service. It has appointed, on an interim basis, a dedicated assistant director post with strategic leadership and senior operational responsibility for the children with disabilities social work teams. Recruitment for a permanent post-holder is underway.
Better support for children experiencing long-term neglect is something Surrey County Council has already been working on through a multi-agency approach across Surrey, and the Surrey Safeguarding Children’s Partnership recently reaffirmed this as a priority. It is putting in place a widely used assessment and planning tool designed to help practitioners working with children and families.