Caseloads remain too high for some social workers and Independent Reviewing Officers at Liverpool children's services, Ofsted has warned.
Liverpool children’s services were inspected in May 2018, when all areas were judged to require improvement to be good. Although there has been some work done to improve services since this inspection, this has led to minimal impact on the experiences and outcomes for some children in care.
"Some of the inspectors’ findings highlight that the concerns raised in the May 2018 inspection remain," said Ofsted following the focused visit of the authority.
During the last 12 months, the local authority has strengthened its senior leadership team with permanent appointments. This has enabled the local authority to set the foundations for improving the quality of practice and for improving outcomes for children. Leaders acknowledge that there is more to do to ensure that permanence planning for all children in care is good. The local authority’s self-evaluation demonstrates that senior leaders have an accurate knowledge of their services and have put in place a number of initiatives designed to strengthen and improve arrangements for permanence for children
There continues to be strong political and corporate support for children’s services and at a time of budget pressures, elected members have agreed to further substantial investment in children’s services.
Progress has been made in the timeliness of statutory requirements such as reviews, completion of health assessments, dental checks and strengths and difficulties questionnaires. For the majority of children, their placements are meeting the children’s needs and improving their outcomes.
- Decision-making and application of the threshold for bringing children into care is appropriate.
- Social workers visit children regularly and children are seen alone. Recordings of visits are mostly thorough, and evidence the wishes and feelings of children.
- The majority of statutory reviews are timely and are attended by the relevant professionals and children are encouraged to attend and participate in their reviews.
- Strengthened performance data means that leaders have a better understanding of key priorities.
However, the report stated that permanence planning is not robust and does not consistently take place within the child’s timescale. Drift in care planning has led to some children remaining in long-term foster placements by default rather than through effective and focused planning.
Family group conferences are not always considered in cases where it would be appropriate to do this.
Assessments informing children’s permanence plans are of variable quality. Stronger assessments evidence an informed analysis of risks and placement needs of children. Weaker assessments are not consistently comprehensive or analytical, and do not reflect the day-to-day lived experiences of the child.
Care planning meetings are not used consistently or effectively prior to reviews to focus on and drive permanency planning. IROs do not effectively challenge any drift or delay for the majority of children’s plans, and records do not indicate how the review process is used to ask critical questions about the decisions made about children, or to consider their future needs.
Life-story work is not undertaken with all children in care. Quality assurance of practice through auditing of work is not consistently focused on the impact of that work on children.
Ofsted recommends that Liverpool improves the timeliness of permanency planning for all children in care and the quality and frequency of assessments to inform care planning.
Care plans need to set out clear and measurable outcomes.
Recording of supervision sessions need to include reflection, challenge and agreed next steps and the quality and consistency of oversight and challenge by IROs needs to improve.
2022 saw people trying to get back to some degree of normality following the Covid-19 lockdowns, restrictions and school closures that we had faced for the previous two years. However, the impact of Covid-19 continued and many services experienced, and continue to experience, backlogs and difficulties, including those services relating to children and families.
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