By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter, 28 June
Children experiencing ongoing neglect or domestic abuse are still not getting the access to help they need, according to government inspectors.
Although they found Surrey County Council has made “significant progress” in improving its children’s services, they still found shortcomings around recurring patterns of abuse or neglect not being given “sufficient attention”.
They said this could mean some children were still not receiving the help they need.
The comments come in the latest OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) monitoring report for Surrey County Council (SCC) published on Friday, 28 June.
The report documents findings from a visit by inspectors on June 5 and 6.
This is the third monitoring visit by government inspectors after “serious failings” with SCC children’s services were identified last year, when they were rated inadequate.
Writing in the report, Nick Stacey, Her Majesty’s Inspector, praised managers for their “ambitious” redesign and restructure of the service, noting a “significant reduction” in the previously high volume of contracts and referrals, the number of child protection investigations and those needing assessments and protection plans.
He said this meant that social workers now have a substantially reduced and more manageable caseload.
But identifying areas that still need improvement, he wrote: “The local authority readily accepts that there is further work required to improve practice in some areas identified during the visit.
“This includes, for example, ensuring that histories of children exposed to continuing harm, through recurring patterns of neglect and domestic abuse, are taken full account of when making further decisions as to what continuing support and intervention are appropriate.
“Although partnership working is much improved, there are still delays in the timeframe within which police notifications are passed by the police to the ‘request for support’ team.”
The report praises the management of the changes and decision-making and that early help advisers are working “efficiently and quickly”.
However he noted there needs to be closer working with police and social workers due to delays in documents on missing children being passed over.
He said Surrey has now audited over 500 children’s cases and that a “more accurate understanding of the quality and impact of social work practice” is being built.
An SCC spokesman: “We are very encouraged by Ofsted’s report about our new frontline children’s services but acknowledge there is more to do.
“This is just the first in a series of improvements that are already taking place across the service to make sure we provide the best possible support to children, young people and families in Surrey.”