There is an appropriate pace of change at Barnet, a monitoring visit of the authority by Ofsted has found.
Inspectors noted that the local authority is consolidating the recent improvements to services for children and young people identified during the previous monitoring visits. Senior leaders and managers are maintaining their focus and there is an appropriate pace of change in continuing to develop and embed improved quality social work practice across the service.
“Inspectors found some improving progress in the quality of social work practice,” said the report. “Immediate risks for almost all children are adequately addressed. Less case work was of an inadequate standard than on previous monitoring visits, and most children were being appropriately safeguarded.”
However, it warned: “Practice remains inconsistent and some case work remains inadequate.”
In the third monitoring visit since the authority was judged to be inadequate in July 2017, inspectors reviewed the progress made in the area of vulnerable adolescents across a range of teams.
The report highlighted:
- Caseloads are manageable, although a very small number of staff reported case work pressures.
- New staff are being recruited to vacancies and permanent staffing is continuing to stabilise.
- Social workers and other staff report that an effective range of training and support is available to them.
- Quality assurance processes, aligned with senior managerial oversight, is identifying and addressing issues effectively, leading to improvements in social work practice.
- Oversight of poor practice is enabling social workers to learn and better recognise the components of good practice.
- For vulnerable adolescents at high risk of exploitation, regular and effective strategic multi-agency sexual exploitation (MASE) meetings and operational ‘Pre-MASE’ meetings provide effective scrutiny, advice and guidance to multi-agency partners and social workers which is leading to improved safeguarding practice.
- The effective gathering of information from multi-agency partners currently informs disruption activities, including mapping and the linking of children at risk across the borough.
However, the identification of risk, and the use of risk assessments within case recording, remains variable. While children are seen regularly by their social workers, practice is variable. Some children are being seen at six-weekly intervals, though this is not always sufficient to build positive relationships or respond to the changing, complex situations that children are facing.
The quality of assessments remains variable and not all assessments routinely explore parental capacity or analyse historical issues within families to inform understanding and planning. Plans for children are inconsistent and generally of weak quality.
Supervision records seen by inspectors are of variable quality and supervision is not always happening regularly for all social workers.
“In summary, the pace of change has remained consistent and focused. The quality of social work practice is now slowly improving, and inspectors have seen less inadequate practice during this monitoring visit. Senior leaders are fully aware that there are still areas of considerable challenge before practice is of a good standard and the needs of children are well served,” the report concluded.