Cornwall children's services rated as outstanding

Children in Cornwall benefit from good and outstanding services, Ofsted has said following an inspection of children's services.
The long-standing and committed senior leadership team has decisively and persistently focused on improving services for children. Services for children in need of help and protection have improved further and are now good. Children in care and care leavers benefit from high-quality support from social workers who are committed to and ambitious about improving their outcomes and life chances, the
inspection said.
"Political and corporate leaders demonstrate strong commitment to children’s services, and have supported whole-council investment. Combined with the leadership team’s unwavering focus on continuous improvement, this has resulted in strengthened services. Creative and innovative services have continued to flourish through Gweres tus Yowynk, the dedicated multi-agency edge of care service. A significantly improved focus on participation with children in care ensures that children’s voices are heard and acted on. Having psychologists based in teams ensures that social workers and foster carers have access to expertise, which helps planning," said the report.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection was rated good. Inspectors highlighted:
- A well-established early help service connects families to a wide range of help before they reach crisis.
- The quality of early help assessments is consistently good. High-quality early help plans include clear worry statements and success goals.
- The multi-agency referral unit (MARU) is a well-established and highly effective team which covers the services between the hours of 7am and 7pm. This supports effective oversight of the work during transition to the out of hours service.
- A strong multi-agency presence, including police analysts in the MARU, ensures that domestic abuse notifications and referrals are screened in a timely and effective way.
- The stability of the workforce enables children to develop and sustain meaningful relationships with their social worker. The quality of most direct work with children is high and is well reflected in case recording.
- Effective management oversight is reflected through timely and well-recorded rationales for decision-making. Supervision takes place regularly.
- When children’s circumstances do not improve, timely and appropriate consideration is given to holding legal planning meetings and entering the pre-proceedings stage of the public law outline (PLO).
- Disabled children in need of help and protection benefit from an experienced and highly skilled social work team.
- Senior leaders have taken decisive action since the last inspection to significantly improve the assessment and provision of services for homeless 16- and 17-year-olds.
- Children at risk of exploitation benefit from effective multi-agency information-sharing.
However, the report notes that while assessments are mostly of good quality, timely and child-focused, they are not always updated in accordance with children’s changing needs. The quality of plans for children is also too variable - while social workers can articulate clear and well-targeted plans, this is not always translated into high quality written plans for children.
The recording of supervision and management action is not always comprehensive or time-bound. Senior leaders have acted to address this, although the effects of their actions are not yet consistent.
Demand for supported accommodation is high and outweighs the commissioned accommodation provided by the local authority. On occasions, the local authority has used unregulated provision, where the mix of young people is not always well-matched or assessed. Senior leaders recognise that more needs to be done to increase the provision of suitable accommodation for this group of young people.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is outstanding. The report highlights:
- Since the last inspection, senior leaders have worked enthusiastically to improve the quality of services for children in care and care leavers.
- Highly committed and determined social workers, personal advisers and managers know their children well and are aspirational for them and there is a strong focus on improving children’s experiences and their outcomes.
- Arrangements to support adolescents on the edge of care are innovative and highly effective.
- When children cannot remain safely at home with their parents, purposeful action is taken so that they can come into care in a timely manner.
- Children’s rights advocates, who discharge the function of independent reviewing officers, are highly effective in advocating for children, and they systematically ensure that children’s experiences improve.
- Children’s emotional well-being is proactively monitored. Psychologists provide significant therapeutic advice and support to social workers as well as foster carers.
- Considerable work has taken place to strengthen the arrangements to identify and respond to children at risk of exploitation. Children receive a swift and well-targeted response to reduce risk.
- Highly committed care-experienced apprentices undertake group work with children in care.
- The quality and timeliness of adoption arrangements continues to be high in Cornwall and adopters receive consistently high-quality support.
- Children in care and care leavers benefit from access to an exceptional participation offer.
- Visits to care leavers are purposeful according to their level of need, even when living at a distance.
- The majority of care leavers are well supported to succeed in education and training.
The report warns that the quality of pathway plans is variable. While there is no discernible detriment to young people, senior leaders have recently effectively implemented arrangements to improve the quality of pathway plans further.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is outstanding. Ofsted stated:
- Senior leaders in Cornwall have a strong track record of improving and delivering high-quality services. They have worked purposefully since the last inspection and have continued to strengthen services for children and young people.
- Service developments since the last inspection are evident in a number of areas: an efficient front door (MARU), the introduction of CAMHs in the early help hub and clinical psychologists have been introduced to social work teams.
- Partnership arrangements have continued to develop and senior leaders have maintained a clear vision for the future of children’s services.
- Governance arrangements are effective and well understood.
- Political leadership is a key strength. This has ensured considerable commitment from across the directorates to the wider children’s safeguarding agenda.
- The successful introduction of the graded profile has ensured a consistent, effective and well-targeted response to neglect.
- The new social work model implemented after the last inspection in 2016 is now well embedded and it is contributing to good and outstanding practice across all parts of the service.
-Responses to children at risk of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, have significantly improved since the 2016 inspection.
- Workforce stability is strong.
- Highly effective quality assurance arrangements are extensive and sophisticated.
- Performance management arrangements are wide-ranging and highly effective.
In order to improve, Cornwall should address the provision of suitable accommodation for 16- and 17-year-old homeless young people, including:
- sufficiency of accommodation
- assessment and support available to young people
- management oversight of the use of any unregulated provision.
The quality and timeliness of life-story work for children and the quality of plans for children across the service need to improve, particularly timescales for actions.
Cornwall inspection of children's services

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