Ofsted update – 2 August 2013

Ofsted update 2 August 2013 – Improving child protection in Devon sent to staff and Board members:

Department for Education

Following a detailed presentation of our children’s safeguarding improvement plan to Edward Timpson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, the Minister is minded to issue us with a 12 month Improvement Notice and that will be confirmed over the following weeks.

The presentation by Cllr Will Mumford, which emphasised how seriously the council was taking the Ofsted report and stressed the impetus and pace behind our improvement plan, was well received by the Minister and officials who were keen to support us by discussing our key challenges and priorities. In a letter to the council dated 17 July, the Minister fully recognised the challenges facing all local authorities in delivering effective safeguarding and the improvement action already underway in Devon.

The DfE will now work with us to agree a range of outcome-driven targets and how they will help keep us on track and monitor our progress against targets and milestones.

If the Minister gives us a 12 month Improvement Notice this will mean the council remains fully responsible for driving forwards its own improvement and further details will follow as they emerge. This reinforces the importance of responding to Ofsted’s seven areas for improvement overall in the report that need to be dealt with immediately, within both three months and within six months.


Devon Safeguarding Children Board Chairman appointed

We are pleased to announce that David Taylor was appointed yesterday as Chairman of the Devon Safeguarding Children Board. David bring with him a wealth of experience from working in other authority areas, including Somerset County Council, and is also Chairman of Torbay Safeguarding Children Board.


Increase in the volume of work

Following the unannounced inspection, there has been a significant increase in activity across the Children’s Social Work system. We are reviewing our threshold document so we can ensure only the cases that need to, are going through to Initial Assessment. We are also looking at introducing a simpler risk assessment tool to support decision making. We recognise everyone is working exceptionally hard and going the extra mile. Thank you.
As part of the Ofsted plan, we will be receiving a report from HR detailing some clear proposals supporting our recruitment and retention strategy. We will share these with you as soon as they have been confirmed through the Delivery Improvement Group and the Safeguarding Improvement Board over the next few weeks.

Safeguarding Improvement Board (SIB)

The Safeguarding Improvement Board, chaired by David Taylor (interim) met this week. We extended a warm welcome to representatives of partner agencies (Education, Health and the Police), who were attending the Board for the first time, along with an observer from the Department for Education. Through our strengthened membership with partners, we are broadening our discussion around the development of a resource plan, our vision, progress on all themes within the action plan and the board’s approach to monitoring it.

Future meetings the Board will consider the Programme Highlight Report and have a detailed focus on one of the five themes in the Action and Improvement Plan, beginning with Quality of Practice at the next meeting on 23 September.

We are seeking to appoint an independent chair for the SIB hopefully in time for the next meeting in September. And we have also revised the SIB terms of reference and they will be updated shortly on our staff web pages.


Learning from other authorities

We are proposing to set up staff visits to Gateshead Borough and also Lincolnshire to find out how councils judged ‘good’ or more by Ofsted, and how they organise their safeguarding arrangements. It will be an opportunity to see how successful councils deliver quality, safe services within budgets and ensure systems and processes are as uncluttered and user friendly as possible.


Early help

Work is progressing on the development of the new strategy for early help, following the work shop with partners last week. Those attending will have an opportunity to comment on the current draft, with a request that they respond by Friday 26 July. Following receipt of their comments, the draft strategy will then be issued for formal consultation with agencies in week commencing 29 July. Because of the timing and mindful of the impact of school holidays, this part of the consultation will be open until Wednesday 11 September

Towards the end of August, we plan to seek the views of wider stakeholders including young people and families on key elements of the strategy  and their access to and experience of early help services across Devon.

This consultation will be open until the end of October with the outcomes directly contributing to creating of the action plan for early help. We expect one part of the Strategy will be a new approach to the common assessment framework. This needs to build on the work of the SEND Pathfinder project but will involve a separate process to identify the need from an early help perspective. Until then the existing assessment framework should continue to be used.


  • Autumn staff briefings – 19 September

We are planning several staff briefings across Devon in on Thursday 19 September 2013 to update you on how we have progressed our priorities and key actions – as we focus on the areas of quality assurance, quality of practice and early help. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback at the briefings. Please make a note in your calendar now. Details will follow shortly for staff.

  • Our web pages

We understand that leadership visibility and on-going communications is fundamental to delivering our Vision. We will continue to keep out staff intranet website up-to-date http://staff.devon.gov.uk/ofsted/ where supporting documents are located.
To remain open and transparent, we are publishing our commitment to improving child protection in Devon, and update summaries on our Keeping Devon’s Children Safe public web pages.


Kind regards

Jennie Stephens                               Will Mumford