Families needing support from social workers in East Sussex are receiving an ‘outstanding’ service, according to inspectors.
The last time Ofsted reviewed children’s social care services at East Sussex County Council in 2014 the authority was given a rating of ‘good’.
But after the latest inspection, carried out in July, the county council has become one of the few authorities to have achieved the highest rating for its work with vulnerable families.
Ofsted’s report praised East Sussex’s social care workforce as ‘impressively stable and resilient at all times and in all teams’.
It also highlighted how leaders and managers have successfully established a culture in which talented staff stay and where effective social work flourishes.
Sylvia Tidy, lead member for children and families, said: “To be rated outstanding is testament to the commitment and dedication of all of our staff, and I would like to thank them all for the fantastic work they do often in difficult and sometimes heart-breaking situations.”
For the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, and the impact of leaders on social work practice, the authority has been rated ‘outstanding’, while the experiences of children who needed help and protection is deemed to be ‘good’.
Inspectors were impressed with East Sussex’s ‘connected practice’ model resulting in social workers creating helpful, enduring and trusting relationships between practitioners, children and their families sometimes over many years.
The Ofsted report added: “Examples of creative and purposeful direct work with children are widespread, and this work leads to substantial improvements in children’s lives.”
For James, it was this approach that helped him turn his life around after his drug addiction lead to all four of his children put into care.
He said: “When social workers were saying ‘we are here to help you’, I didn’t listen. But I wish I had known years ago how it could be.
“I would not be the father I am today if it hadn’t been for the support from social services. Things have never been better and I know I have social services to thank for that.”
After spending nine months in a treatment centre and receiving intensive individual support and counselling and parenting work, he now lives with his two eldest children, while his partner has the two younger siblings.
Care leaver Seb has also benefitted from the ‘connected practice’ approach from first entering the care system at 14 to today, where he is supported as he starts a law degree.
He said: “I’ve had ups and downs, I battled with depression and anxiety, but the one constant in my life has been social services and it has been a really positive experience.
“Social workers in East Sussex do go above and beyond and the personal connection is so important.
“When I came into the care system, I was a bit of a mess and I have got to where I’ve got to because of their support.”
Keith Glazier, leader of the county council, said: “We are extremely fortunate in East Sussex to have a highly skilled and dedicated team delivering this vital service to our most vulnerable families and I am delighted that their efforts have been recognised.
“In spite of the continuing financial pressures, our staff are still delivering an outstanding service. The support they offer to vulnerable families underlines the need for us to fight for more sustainable funding.”
Possible areas for improvement include making correspondence more accessible when legal proceedings are being considered and improved recording of manager’s rationale for timescales agreed for completing family assessments.