Progress continues to be made at Birmingham children’s services, Ofsted has said.
In the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was judged inadequate in November 2016, Ofsted concentrated on care leaver services and found all care leavers are allocated a personal adviser and there has been further investment made in establishing a fifth 18+ leaving care team to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people.
“Children who have been in the care of Birmingham for two years or more are benefiting from, in almost all cases seen, stable, long-term living arrangements,” said Ofsted. “Comprehensive plans are in place and are reviewed regularly.”
Contact with birth family is promoted, but in too many cases where multiple arrangements for contact are made with extended family members, there is a potential of increased instability and a greater risk of placement breakdown, it adds. Contact arrangements of up to 12 times a year for multiple family members were evident in many cases and in some for those who had harmed the child.
These arrangements have not been adequately evaluated or overseen by managers and independent reviewing officers.
- A new pathway plan format introduced this year is a significant improvement on the previous format.
- Personal education plans are not routinely completed after young people reach 18. Although this is not a requirement, it is good practice to undertake PEPs if young people remain in or enter education at 18-plus.
- There is an appropriate focus on young people who are NEET and overall numbers of NEET show a small reduction since the last full inspection.
- The vast majority (95%) of young people are living in appropriate accommodation and benefit from priority in public housing allocation.
- Reviews are held regularly, although there was little evidence of young people attending reviews.
- Social workers visit children regularly in accordance with statutory requirements and sometimes more frequently.
- Supervision of staff is, in the vast majority of cases, regular, with managers having a clear oversight of case issues by using the strengthening families approach.
“The local authority has demonstrated that it has made some further improvements to the quality of social work practice since the last inspection. However, where children in care have long-term plans, there is a risk that a lack of focus on ensuring long-term security will result in instability in the future and poorer outcomes as a result,” said the report.
“Further work remains to be done to ensure that practice is consistently good and that the best outcomes for all children are achieved on a timely and consistent basis,” it concluded.