Ofsted update – November 2013

Ofsted update 6 November 2013 – Improving child protection in Devon sent to staff and Board members:

To help support the delivery of the Ofsted Improvement Plan, I am pleased to announce that Fiona Fitzpatrick joins us today on an interim basis.

Fiona is a highly qualified social care professional who has a clear focus on delivering for the most vulnerable children and adults, and brings a wealth of experience gained throughout her career in local authorities across the country.

Most recently, Fiona was Interim Service Director Children’s Social Care at Wiltshire Council where she worked with their Improvement Notice, Plan and Board to enable sustained improvement and the delivery of positive outcomes. During her time at Wiltshire, Fiona was also instrumental in developing and embedding practice standards and an audit system based on quality of practice.

Prior to her post at Wiltshire, as Assistant Director Children’s Social Care and Family Support at Calderdale Council, Fiona exceeded Improvement Notice targets and embedded a fieldwork delivery model and consistent thresholds, while ensuring the recruitment and retention of social workers at all levels.

Reporting directly to Jennie, Fiona will be an integral part of the team working to deliver on the targets set in our Improvement Notice and we look forward to welcoming her to Devon.


Lean Review:

The findings and recommendations from the lean process review were recently presented to Members and senior managers. The consultants have provided us with a very comprehensive report detailing findings and recommendations for each area they looked at. The presentation and report have been well received and a big thank you to all of you once again for your valuable contribution to the work.

Work is underway to establish the project structure and plan to implement the recommendations, which will centre around four work streams – the business pathway, engagement, systems and management information.

The recommendations are being assessed in terms of priority and identifying those that will have the most impact including identifying a number of ‘quick wins’ that can help resolve some of the issues you identified through the review process. It will not be possible to undertake every single recommendation and there are some recommendations that we may not agree with or that we are already progressing. Further detail on this will be provided in due course.

Rob Parkhouse (Head of Business Strategy and Support) will sponsor the project and it will be monitored through the Quality of Practice workstream of the Ofsted Action Plan. The project will also incorporate findings from other projects, such as the reviews of the MASH and Independent Review Unit (IRU), and the visits being undertaken to other authorities. This is to ensure that all the initiatives relating to process and systems are brought under a single programme to reduce the potential for duplication, or working at cross purposes. We will continue to involve you throughout the implementation and keep you informed about progress.

An Executive Summary of the full report has been produced which provides the overall findings but not the specific findings relating to individual service areas. The full report is available to read here.The full report contains 143 Powerpoint slides so please avoid printing the report off to prevent the printers from becoming blocked and to save paper.

Action Plan workstream updates

Quality of Practice

The backlog team are now firmly in place and are currently working through some 400 cases. We are aware that there is still pressure in the system, and that the use of the backlog team has also led to increased workloads for some of our safeguarding partner agencies, but it is vital that we work together to ensure progress is made in this area.

In recognition of increased workloads and gaps in staffing levels, we are actively recruiting permanent and agency staff. Many of you will start to see those staff arriving in your teams, with another seven starting on Monday and up to 12 in the following weeks.


Early Help

In order to address the specific weakness identified by Ofsted, we are working with our partner agencies to revise the Early Help Strategy for children and families.

Following a period of consultation with agencies a revised draft Strategy was supported by the Devon Safeguarding Children Board (DSCB) in September. Work is now under way to:

  • Identify early help needs, map the services that are available across the county and identify gaps
  • Test key aspects of the Strategy with front line colleagues from a wide range of agencies
  • Gather the views of young people and families about their needs and experiences in accessing early help services, provided by a range of agencies.
  • Agree with commissioners the key gaps in provision and the actions needed to address them.

The draft Strategy will be revised in the light of the above and will be submitted to the DSCB for approval in December 2013. This will include a clear plan for action to address the gaps in service provision identified as a result of the above work, thereby addressing one of the weaknesses identified by Ofsted.

In addition, the DSCB has approved the Devon Assessment Framework (DAF) as the common assessment tool to be used by agencies in Devon. The DAF was developed by the SEND Pathfinder and has been adapted for use in providing early help and we are now working to implement the DAF. A new IT system is being procured to provide a more effective means of creating, retaining, quality assuring and monitoring assessments, again addressing weaknesses identified by Ofsted. Subject to detailed planning currently under way, the new system will commence operation in January 2014 in north Devon, with roll out to other areas over the following months.

Amongst the tasks needed to implement the above, it is clear that very proactive and effective communication will be necessary to ensure that colleagues across multiple agencies are clear about what is happening, when and how this affects them, and additional communications has been commissioned to support this.


Quality Assurance

The QA framework (QAF) is intended to help us to know ourselves better so we can address issues as they arise and enable us to make improvements. The QAF pulls on important performance information such as placement moves or visits to children on CP plans or in care, staffing data (vacancies, sickness etc.), the quality of our case work through auditing, and what service users are telling us through reviews and complaints.

Advanced Professionals have started auditing the first 250 cases this quarter and feedback will be given to individual staff and teams. Weekly reports will capture the staffing picture and the performance of each team every week for the leadership team and we will be sharing key messages we are getting from children and families.


Devon Safeguarding Children Board

We have appointed a new Senior Workforce Development Advisor, Derek Moore to take forward the DSCB Training Strategy, and the DSCB office has recently re-located from Totnes to room 22 Matford Offices County Hall, and will be joined by the DSCB safeguarding training team. The DSCB has reviewed and agreed its structure for 2014, and will commence with a new Executive Board, that will meet monthly from November to drive forward the DSCB priorities.

An Early Help table top exercise has been planned for DSCB members’ staff to attend to bench test some of the early help tools.


The voice of a child

A great deal of work is taking place to ensure that the Action Plan better reflects that the voice of the child is considered at each stage of the child’s journey. These are some of the initiatives planned:

  • The Independent Reviewing Unit, working in conjunction with Devon Youth Service, recently launched a pilot scheme to conduct exit interviews with young people leaving care and coming off a Child Protection Plan.
  • Officers will be working with the independent body Research in Practice to design and develop a simple tool to enable frontline professionals to collect and record the voices of children and young people.
  • Work has started to enable young people with directly relevant experience to participate in the recruitment and selection of frontline staff and to participate in subsequent programmes of induction and training.
  • A plan is in place to develop a quarterly briefing bringing together the collective voices of children in care and care leavers, reporting directly to the QA framework.


Safeguarding Improvement Board

At the last SIB meeting the need for pace and urgency, with successful implementation of early help key to relieving pressure across the system, was reinforced among partners.

Professor Ray Jones, who chairs the SIB, reminded the meeting that early help is the responsibility and business of everyone to work on together to improve practice and ensure a system-wide approach.


Working with partners

Through the SIB, we received updates from our partners on the work taking place to develop safeguarding protocols for headteachers; good outcomes from meetings at the MASH to improve information for referrers; and work within the education system to adopt best practice.


Visits to other authorities

Successful visits have taken place to Plymouth and Gateshead where we were able to share examples of good practice and learn more about the systems used by the authorities and their performance reporting.

Following visits to Lincolnshire and Cornwall, which are planned for later this month, a summary report of the findings will be prepared and linked to the workstreams as appropriate.



Keeping up-to-date

Don’t forget to keep checking our Source staff website http://staff.devon.gov.uk/ofsted/ where all supporting documents and information can be found including the engagement and event calendar.

Contact us

And remember that the dedicated mailbox is still open for any comments or questions you may have. Please email peopleservices-mailbox@devon.gov.uk  Each query is allocated and you should expect a timely response.

Kind regards

Jennie Stephens                               Will Mumford