Norfolk children’s services department is on the right track to get ‘good’ rating, says boss

Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The director of Norfolk's children's services department has said the service is on the way to becoming good, but that recruiting experienced social workers to help get to that rating is a challenge.

In January, inspectors from Ofsted raised Norfolk County Council's children's services department's overall effectiveness rating from 'inadequate' to 'requires improvement to be good', with adoption performance rated as 'outstanding'.

Sara Tough, who became the department's permanent director in October, now has her senior management team in place and says that stability will help improve the department further.

She said: 'The first thing has been to establish that senior leadership team and by the end of June, everyone will be fully in post. That is a significant improvement. Everyone who has been recruited has given a commitment to get us to 'good'. They have seen that Norfolk has great people and it is a great opportunity.'

One Ofsted recommendation is that the council ensures children establish relationships with social workers and 'benefit from the consistency and continuity that a settled and stable workforce, with manageable caseloads, provides'.

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Ms Tough said she aimed to create that environment, but said: 'We have still got challenges in getting stability in the frontline workforce. It means children will experience change in their social workers and we really do not want that. The children tell me they don't want that over and over again.'

The council's workforce includes about 15pc of agency workers and Ms Tough said she would rather it was about 5pc.

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Some social workers have caseloads of 30 children or more, although Ms Tough said work was being done to reduce that number.

She said: 'We are exploring all sorts of different things we might do to tackle that problem.

'There's lots of models which are part of social care innovation projects which we are having a look at to see if they might work in Norfolk.

'It's not just about recruiting experienced social workers.

'It's also about having multidisciplinary teams where there's more support to free up capacity for the social workers.

'We are completely aware that is the one single priority issue. If we can tackle that, it will impact on caseloads.'

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