Somerset County Council have announced a £6m investment boost for its Children’s Service with plans to recruit up to 100 extra children’s social work staff.
Announced by Council Leader, Cllr John Osman, at yesterday’s Full Council meeting, the move underlines the authority’s commitment to child protection and is thought to be one of the biggest investments in social work recruitment of any county council in the country.
“I have said that we would continue to provide what is needed for the service to make rapid improvements,” said Cllr Osman. “And this investment shows the size of this council’s commitment.
“There were signs of progress in the Ofsted report and it is essential that with our partners we continue to build on these. The challenge – which I expect to be met with the help of this extra investment – is to improve from inadequate by this time next year and be rated good or above in three years time.”
The ring-fenced £6m additional funding over 3 years looks to recruit an extra 100 social workers, support staff and fund preventative work to address issues before they reach social work staff. This would mean the authority having around 200 permanent, qualified frontline social workers, almost double its current levels.
The investment follows work with colleagues from Essex County Council assigned to support and monitor Somerset’s Children’s Services and their improvement following the inadequate Ofsted inspection report published in March. Post Ofsted priorities include embedding Early Help, increasing local care placements as well as improving social work and management capacity.
Cllr Osman added:
“Improvements have to be built on stability, strong partnerships and staff. The message I am now getting is that increased staff capacity has to be part of the solution, which is why – even in these tough financial times – we are making this investment.”
Yesterday’s Full Council also saw announcements that will increase the Council’s oversight of improvements in Children’s Services:
• A new cross-party Scrutiny Committee dedicated to Children’s Services will be created.
• A new Cabinet position with responsibility for Improvement will also created, focusing primarily on Children’s Services and Adult Social Care.