There is strong corporate leadership and ambition to improve services for children and their families at North Tyneside, reflected in a determined transformation programme of children’s services.
A focused inspection by Ofsted found senior leaders know the service well, and this is reflected in the local authority’s self-assessment.
“Inspectors found evidence of sound social work practice in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and social work assessment teams. Contacts and referrals are progressed in a timely manner. No children were found to be in situations of unassessed or unmanaged risk,” said the report.
Senior managers have been resolute in implementing a newly reconfigured and effective MASH over the last eight months. There is a strong commitment from a wide range of partner agencies and effective integration to the social work assessment teams, ensuring that children are safeguarded. Local authority staff have been effectively engaged with the service developments and value the leadership, support, supervision and training that is provided for them.
The report highlights that since the last Ofsted inspection in March 2017, senior managers and leaders have led an extensive transformation programme. This has seen the establishment of a fully functioning MASH, the very recent implementation of a new fit-for-purpose electronic system, and a whole-system approach to the introduction of a recognised and evidence-based model of practice.
- In the cases audited and in all other work considered, the local authority had acted appropriately to safeguard children and keep them safe.
- Immediate risk of significant harm is identified effectively and responses are prompt and well-coordinated.
- Actions for s47 enquiries were clearly identified.
- Decisions to step down to early help from the MASH are clear, appropriate and seamless, informed by a clear analysis of risks and protective factors.
- When risks escalate, decisions to step back to children’s social care are appropriate, and effective joint working between services and partner agencies is supported by the early help manager and coordinators.
- Risks to the most vulnerable young people, such as the risk of exploitation, and to those exposed to domestic abuse and homelessness, are well recognised and responded to, with the provision of appropriate support and services.
- Child sexual exploitation is identified effectively using the screening tool to evaluate risks.
- The risks associated with the complexities of domestic abuse, including coercive control, are well understood.
- Good thorough assessments were seen by inspectors.
“The stable staff group and the small team structure enable management grip of staffing issues and caseloads,” said the report. “Staff are extremely positive about working in North Tyneside and morale is high. They cite the support, supervision, training, clear career progression and the high visibility and approachability of senior managers as contributing to the positive learning culture in the council.”
Ofsted recommends that North Tyneside ensure that the key issues and rationale for decisions arising from designated officer meetings are clear, that support for the alleged perpetrator is identified and that actions have clear timescales for completion.
Fine tuning of the new electronic system is required to introduce consistency of practice across the service.
The authority should also ensure that manager guidance with clear timescales is provided at the outset of an assessment, the report concludes.