Senior leaders and managers are appropriately focused at Barnet to improve and embed good quality social work practice, Ofsted has found.
In a second monitoring visit since the authority was judged inadequate in July 2017, inspectors said the local authority is continuing to progress and consolidate recent improvements to services for children and young people seen during the first monitoring visit.
“During this visit, inspectors found strengthened practice within the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH). This is leading to a more consistent approach to the application of thresholds, information sharing and improvements to the timeliness of decision-making,” said the report. “The duty and assessment teams and intervention and planning teams are beginning to improve practice for children in need of help and protection, although improvements are not consistent across the service.”
In most cases considered, there is a more timely identification of risk and appropriate immediate actions to protect children. However, longer term planning to improve outcomes for children remains variable and in too many cases remains inadequate.
Senior leaders and managers understand the widespread nature and scale of the improvements required within the service. They continue to appropriately prioritise activities, with a strong focus on improving social work practice and embedding the cultural change required to achieve this.
Social workers told inspectors that they can access relevant and helpful training, that their case loads are manageable and that they enjoy working in Barnet. Many staff support the changes the local authority is making to promote better and more effective practice for children and their families. Morale is good and the turnover of staff is stabilising. Supervision is however variable.
Strengthened quality assurance processes are becoming increasingly embedded into the culture of the service. Practice deficits identified and shared with the local authority during the previous monitoring visit have been addressed.
During this visit, inspectors found some positive improvements in practice. This was particularly apparent within the MASH. Inspectors also found some very recent and limited improvements within the duty and assessment and the intervention and planning teams. Both the MASH and duty and assessment teams have received extra resourcing, increased staff and managers.
For children at risk of harm, inspectors found that responses within the MASH were appropriate, including clear identification of risks and decision-making to address these. The duty and assessment teams also responded appropriately to risks to children.
Practice was weaker and there was more limited improvement for children subject to child protection plans or child in need plans. Assessments of children’s needs and the plans to support them are not thorough or effective. This leads to drift and delay in improving outcomes. Some very recent practice improvements are in place for some children, but these had not yet made a significant difference to them or their families.
The standard of case recording remains too variable and inspectors did not find evidence of improved assessments for children and their families. The quality of assessments considered was mostly weak. In the cases considered, the quality of child protection planning is variable and children in need planning is mostly weak. Plans do not address core concerns and actions are therefore not clear or specific, or always updated.
“The pace of change has remained consistent and focused and is beginning to raise practice standards. However, social work practice remains inadequate in some areas considered during this visit by inspectors. The process of changing the culture to promote acceptable practice is continuing, but remains a significant challenge,” the report concluded.