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Better information sharing found at West Berkshire

The co-location of partners in the MASH at West Berkshire since the last inspection has enabled more efficient and effective information-sharing, Ofsted has said.

A focused visit of the authority which looked at arrangements for children who need help and protection, found decisions made when children are first referred to children’s services are appropriate, correctly overseen by managers and lead to prompt and effective action to safeguard children when this is necessary.

"Changes in the senior leadership team have been well managed and have not had a negative impact on the quality of practice seen during this visit. Senior leaders have identified that further work is needed to fully implement the new early help strategy. They have also recognised that improvements are needed in the audit system," said the report.

The report highlighted:

- The system for responding to contacts is timely, safe and effective.

- Work in the Contact, Advice and Assessment Service (CAAS) triage team is timely and is progressed with due consideration of the level of risk and by gaining parental consent when needed.

- Significant risks are immediately escalated to ensure that children are safeguarded.

- Assessments are generally strong.

- The response to domestic abuse notifications is sound.

- When children go missing, effective partnership working provides oversight which informs next steps.

- The monthly Exploited, Missing and Risk Assessment Conference (EMRAC) is effective.

- Strong management oversight is evident throughout the work in CAAS.

"Staff describe managers as available and approachable. They are very appreciative of, and complimentary about, the quality of management support and supervision. Managers provide a challenge to improve practice and performance in the best interests of children. Staff caseloads are manageable, despite the volume and fast pace of work," the report concluded.

To improve social work practice, West Berkshire should focus on decisions arising from contacts and referrals so that families and agencies are clear about, and implement, the actions needed to improve children's circumstances. They should also improve assessments so that they actively consider the impact of diversity and culture on children and families’experiences in order to inform planning and intervention for children.

The auditing process needs work so that it evaluates the impact of practice on children’s experiences and progress.

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