Children’s services in West Sussex have been branded as ‘inadequate’ by an Ofsted inspection.
The inspection took place over a three-week period in late February/early March and looked at three areas.
The areas are: the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection and the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers.
In all three areas inspectors found services to be inadequate and as a result the overall effectiveness was judged to be inadequate.
Responding to the report, council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “We take these findings extremely seriously.
“At present, we are letting down children and families who need our help most. It is unacceptable – we are very sorry and bitterly disappointed.
“At the end of last year, we were aware services were fragile and announced a £5million investment programme to make urgent improvements.
“That work is still underway but as the inspectors have found, we are a long way from delivering the services vulnerable children and families of West Sussex deserve.
“I want to reassure residents that we will continue to do everything that is necessary to change our services for the better.
“The voices of our children need to be central to everything we do. And to that end I have already made significant changes to the Corporate Parenting Panel.”
Ofsted did acknowledge progress had been made in some areas. The support from the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub – which deals with children when they first come into contact with the council – is working well, and the care leaver’s service and the dedicated service for complex adolescents are starting to have a positive impact.
The report highlights 12 areas for improvement, including the infrastructure and services to support good quality social work practice, planning for permanent placements for children, staff recruitment and retention and active engagement with partners.
County council chief executive Nathan Elvery said: “Improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children in West Sussex is the council’s top priority.
The council’s improvement plan aims to deliver stability for our social care workforce, a staff training programme to address practice improvements and a recruitment and retention programme so that social worker caseloads can be reduced.
The full Ofsted report can be read at: reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/44/80578