An exodus of social workers meant Surrey County Council lost an entire year’s worth of staff intake for children’s services in a three-year period.

Of the 23 members of staff recruited to the council’s failing children services department in 2013, all had left SCC by 2016.

Retention has improved since then but the council has suffered a “poor reputation” affecting its staff recruitment, according to a report.

In a bid to ensure the council provides better support, an academy of training is being set up for all members of children’s services and partner organisations including police, teachers, doctors and volunteer organisations.

The move is part of major plan to address the failings identified by Ofsted inspectors (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) who rated the service inadequate in its latest report in April. The same rating was given in 2014.

In reports to be considered by members of SCC’s Children and Education Select Committee on Friday, September 7 transformation plans and a restructure of the service is outlined.

This comes just days before inspectors from Ofsted are due to return to carry out their first monitoring visit on September 11 and 12.

The report states that turnover of staff remains a “significant difficulty” added to by recruitment and retention pressures faced in the South East.

SCC already runs an academy for newly-qualified social workers, but in a bid to improve its service it will now roll-out the support and training model to include all staff within the department.

Noting the exodus of staff between 2013-2016, the report says: “While an exodus on this scale has not been repeated in more recent years [of the 2015 intake we have retained 75 percent of staff to date] there is evidence of staff supported by the academy early in their careers leaving after around two years and taking their experience and knowledge with them.”

The new academy will include the current social work academy and will offer all staff working with children, schools and families training and support to develop their career taking a “back to basics” approach to “ensure all staff have up-to-date knowledge and skills to fulfill their roles”.

Ofsted formally met with SCC leaders on June 25 to comment on the council’s draft improvement plan which will also be considered at the meeting on Friday.

The Ofsted monitoring visit on September 11 and 12 will focus on child protection and children who have recently “ceased being subjects of child protection plans”.

Managers say they are not expecting the inspectors to “observe improvement” due to the scale of change needed adding in the report: “We have advised Ofsted that it is unlikely they will see any real improvement in the quality of services until our transformation work has taken hold.”

The improvement plan looks at restructuring the service, better partner engagement, a practice model including looking at CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services)  and supporting foster carers and a focus on how leaders and managers work. This includes the setting up of an Ofsted Priority Action Board chaired by Hampshire County Council’s CEO John Coughlin.

The inadequate rating the department received was the second to be given to Surrey.

The report acknowledges the approach to the first inadequate rating in 2014  was “not successful” and that the council’s poor reputation made it difficult to recruit and retain social workers.

It states: “The findings of the Ofsted Inspection show that we have failed to provide services that offer proper levels of help and protection for children in Surrey.

“The set of conditions that have led to this failure are deep seated, will be tackled at pace, but the change we need to achieve will not be quick.”