The senior leadership team at Brighton and Hove Council, supported by strong cross-party political and corporate support, has worked effectively to improve services and moved from an ofsted rating of 'requires improvement' to 'good' in the latest inspection.
Leaders have already improved services, which has resulted in children in need of early help and children in need of protection receiving prompt and appropriate help in line with their needs.
"However, leaders are aware, through their own quality assurance monitoring, of the further work needed to improve practice for children in need," said the report. "A small number of children living in private fostering arrangements do not have an allocated social worker and some children experience delay in the pre-proceedings stage of court work."
Senior leaders have recognised deficits and have taken appropriate steps to improve the quality of commissioned return home interviews, but this work is at an early stage.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers and the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families were rated good along with the overall effectiveness while the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection requires improvement.
Social workers’ morale is high, and they enjoy working in Brighton and Hove. The decision not to use agency staff has improved children’s relationships with social workers. At the time of the inspection, vacancies in some social work pods have reduced social worker capacity, resulting in a small number of children’s cases being held by managers in two teams.
Regarding the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, inspectors noted:
- Disabled children benefit from high-quality, responsive support.
- The multi-agency adolescent service that works with children who are hard to engage and require intensive support is an example of good practice.
- Social workers recognise contextual safeguarding risks well.
- Social workers can describe the work they do with children well. However, there is considerable variability in the quality of case recording, including recording of management oversight, across all services.
- Case supervision is variable in terms of its quality. Supervision records do not always do justice to the quality of supervision reported by social workers.
In relation to the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, inspectors highlighted:
- The local authority has worked tenaciously to increase the range of placement options available for children, and they benefit from living in homes that meet their needs well.
- Social workers and managers maintain a strong focus on ensuring that children experience permanence at the earliest opportunity.
- The response to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is a strength.
- The adoption service is strong.
- The local authority is aspirational for care leavers and provides a good range of information and support to help care leavers live safe and fulfilled lives. Educational outcomes for the majority of care leavers are good.
In terms of the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, inspectors said:
- Since the last inspection in 2015, targeted financial investment has supported a service redesign. The new model of practice has been embedded and is resulting in greater continuity of social work relationships for children and families.
- Senior leaders have a clear understanding of the strengths and areas for further development in their services, informed by a thorough and accurate self-assessment.
- Under the leadership of the DCS, senior leaders have worked purposefully to build a skilled and stable workforce, with the majority of staff reporting manageable caseloads.
- Mature, robust relationships with partners, supported by oversight from the local safeguarding children’s board and its sub-groups, enable effective multi-agency safeguarding work.
Ofsted made a number of recommendations and said case recording, including the recording of management oversight and supervision, needs to improve to monitor children’s progress and outcomes effectively.
The response to children in need needs focus, including clear plans with appropriate actions and timescales and regular reviews through network meetings. The progression of pre-proceedings work needs to imrpove, in order to reduce unnecessary delay for children.
The response to children who go missing from home and care needs improvement, including the timeliness and recording of return home interviews to capture intelligence to inform service delivery.
Finally, the allocation of private fostering and care leaver cases to workers needs to improve to allow timely statutory checks and regular visits and contact, in order to ensure that children live in safe arrangements to meet their needs.