Issues and concerns about the quality, impact and effectiveness of assessments and plans, identified at the time of the last inspection of Wigan children's services in February 2017, have not been fully resolved, Ofsted has warned.
Needs and risks are identified appropriately, and inspectors did not find any evidence of children being left at immediate and unassessed risk of significant harm, the focused visit of the authority found.
"But the quality of assessments is still too variable. Plans are still not easy to understand or use and, as a result, core groups and child in need (CIN) review meetings are not as effective as they should be in monitoring and evaluating progress," said the report.
"Social workers are still not always getting the right level of critical challenge and case direction from supervision that they need and deserve."
The new senior leadership team in children’s social care has a good understanding of these issues. The director of practice and her heads of service share a clear sense of purpose and direction and are taking decisive action to improve the quality of social work practice and, by extension, children’s experiences of help and protection. This has undoubtedly contributed to a renewed sense of energy and pace. However, service plans are not specific or measurable. Performance management reports tend to be descriptive rather than analytical, and the quality assurance framework is not fully developed or embedded. This has the potential to undermine senior leaders’ effectiveness and their ability to be held, and to hold each other, to account, the report added.
Inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in need of help and protection, with a specific focus on the quality, impact and effectiveness of planning for these children.
The report highlighted:
- Most cases are being held at the right level, in line with assessed needs and risks.
- Social workers talk knowledgeably about the children and families they are working with.
- Most social workers receive regular supervision, although the quality of that supervision varies.
- The local authority is in the process of creating an environment in which social work can flourish.
- With the exception of the targeted disability service (TDS), where caseloads are higher, workloads are relatively low, and staff talk positively about the range and quality of training on offer.
However, although assessments, including reports for initial child protection conferences, are reasonably detailed, the quality of analysis they provide is not always sufficiently clear or succinct. Most plans for children are not sufficiently specific or measurable.
Staffing pressures in the targeted disability service (TDS) are starting to have a negative impact on the quality of the service that the team is able to provide. Senior leaders are aware of this and are taking appropriate action.
The pace of progress, following the Ofsted inspection in February 2017, in addressing issues and concerns about the quality, impact and effectiveness of assessments and plans, was too slow. Senior leaders recognised this and in 2018 made some fundamental changes to the senior leadership and management structure within children’s social care.
Following a comprehensive scoping exercise that was undertaken during the latter part of 2018, senior leaders understand the challenges, know what needs to be done and are acting accordingly. Vacancies have been filled and social workers and managers talk about having a renewed sense of optimism for the service.
Although senior leaders have a clear plan about how best to drive the much needed improvements, written service plans are not specific or measurable. The quality assurance framework, which was introduced at the time of the last inspection in February 2017, is not fully developed or embedded.
Ofsted recommends that Wigan ensures that plans are effective and lead to positive outcomes for children and that service plans that are specific and measurable.
There should be consistently robust management oversight and social work supervision and quality assurance should consistently promote shared learning and drive improvements.