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Deterioration in services for children in need in York

There has been a deterioration in the quality of services for children in need of help and protection at York since the last inspection of children’s services in 2016, Ofsted has said.

Recently appointed senior managers understand the extent of the deterioration and have put in place processes to address this and a trajectory for change has been established.

"However, some children continue to be exposed to risk, as this change is too recent to have had an impact. There has been drift and delay in the progression of plans for some children. This has been exacerbated by staff turnover, which has resulted in children having too many changes of social worker and a consequent loss of focus on what needs to be done. Work in some cases has lost its way, with children remaining on a plan longer than necessary and risks not being addressed effectively," said the report.

Inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in need of help and protection.

They highlighted:

- A recently updated self-assessment provides an honest appraisal and accurately reflects the shortfalls identified at this visit.

- An improvement board has been established to monitor implementation of the improvement plan although it is too soon to see the impact of this in children’s cases.

- Senior leaders have recognised that a strong culture of quality assurance and performance management has been absent in the authority for some time and are now taking steps to establish a more robust quality assurance framework.

- There is drift and delay in the progression of both children in need and child protection plans for some children. Too many children have had too many changes of social worker, and this has resulted in a loss of focus on what needs to happen to make children’s lives better.

- Unqualified children in need practitioners have had children in need cases allocated to them which has meant that these staff have been asked to work with, and take responsibility for, complex cases and, sometimes, inappropriate levels of risk. This has contributed to drift and delay in some cases. New senior managers have recognised that this practice is unacceptable.

- Newly qualified social work staff have also been expected to carry too much responsibility too early on in their development, including being given sole responsibility for child protection cases.

- Case management oversight and supervision of staff are insufficiently robust.

- Child in need plans and child protection plans are not sufficiently focused on the child, their needs and outcomes to be achieved.

- Children in need meetings and child protection conferences and reviews are timely.

- Case chronologies are not always available and, when they are available, they do not always contain appropriate information.

- Visits to children and families are, in most cases, regular and often more frequent than the statutory requirement.

- Social workers in the children with a disability team demonstrate a good knowledge of and focus on needs arising out of disability.

Ofsted recommends that York children's services improve the quality of supervision offered to staff and the effectiveness of management oversight, including that of IROs, to identify delay and ensure timely progression of plans through supportive challenge.

The quality of children in need and child protection plans should be better to ensure that they focus on children’s needs, make clear expectations on parents and carers that reduces risk, are written in a way that can be easily understood, and include a contingency plan should progress not be made.

Visits to children and families should be purposeful and recorded in a way that is relevant to the plan and includes the child’s voice.

York should also implement an effective quality assurance framework that focuses on the experiences of children and leads to an increased understanding of, and improvement in, the quality of frontline practice.

Finally, there should be a reduction in the number of changes of social worker that some children are experiencing.

Focused visit to York local authority children’s services

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