Drift and delay at Blackburn with Darwen children's services has been addressed, according to Ofsted.
A focused visit of the authority which looked at their arrangements for children in need and children subject to a child protection plan found the quality of most of the help and protection services had remained the same since the last inspection in 2017.
However the report added there were some improvements to some aspects of the service. "Children have their assessments updated more regularly and those in pre-proceedings are more closely monitored, which has reduced drift and delay," the report said.
"Outcomes for many children are improved by the work of the family group conference service, which has been established since the last inspection," the report added.
Yet while some children benefit from the "good quality work by individual practitioners," for meny - especially those suffering from neglect - the service remains too variable with some children living in neglectful situations for too long.
The inspectorate warns that the workforce remains under huge pressure and caseloads have increased among social workers and managers which has, in turn, impeded progress in improving the quality of assessments and care plans.
The report highlighted:
- All assessments seen by inspectors contained an analysis, which in most cases had followed the model prescribed by the local authority.
- A family group conference service has been developed since the last inspection and this is a strength which has had a positive impact on children and their families.
- Conferences result in detailed and practical family plans, with good quality work, which relate closely to the lived experiences of families.
- Where circumstances do not improve, appropriate consideration is given to legal action through the Public Law Outline.
- Social workers feel supported by their managers and have access to them for informal help when needed.
- The authority has responded to feedback from the last inspection by developing additional good quality performance reports to include child-level data that enables individual case monitoring.
- Most audits of casework accurately identify strengths and areas for improvement in the practice they are reviewing.
However, the strong work identified in the family group conference service is not used well to strengthen the impact of child in need or child protection plans.
Evidence of management oversight is present on children's case records, but the quality remains variable.
Furthermore, despite a recommendation from the inspection in 2017 that practice in response to negelct was an area for improvement, the partnetship has not progressed this work quickly enough.
"The re-launched neglect strategy does not identify or evaluate what people in the local area need," the report explained.
The local authority system to assure the quality of audits is not effective in ensuring that they are consistently accurate or making a difference to children.
In order to improve practice Ofsted recommends Blackburn with Darwen should devlop a multi-agency approach to ensure that children who are suffering neglect are helped and protected at the earliest opportunity.
Quality assurance activity should include audits that offer effective opportunities for learning and practice improvement. The quality of assessments and plans should be imporved to ensure that clear analysis leads to improved outcomes.
Social workers should have workloads that allow them to spend sufficient time with children and management oversight should focus on improving quality and outcomes as well as compliance.
Diane Wills is Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, responsible for quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
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