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Dudley making progress

Dudley has made progress in improving services for children in need and those on child protection plans since the time of the last inspection, according to Ofsted.

However, in the seventh monitoring visit since the local authority was judged to be inadequate in April 2016, Ofsted said that leaders recognise that there is still more to do to sustain improvements in practice and to further develop consistent practice quality.

"High staff turnover presents challenges, which have started to have an adverse impact on workloads," said the report.

Inspectors reviewed the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and children on child protection plans, including the effectiveness of management oversight and decision-making in this area.

The report highlighted that leaders and senior managers know their service well. Clear strategic plans are in place to further improve services for children and families in Dudley. A new practice model is being phased in across children’s social care and although it is at an early stage of implementation, its positive impact can be seen in developments such as the effectiveness of family group conferences, which are increasingly being used to benefit children and families.

Despite progress made, the local authority is experiencing competitive workforce pressures which could undermine the pace of progress and their ability to sustain improvements in social work practice. While senior managers are doing much to recruit and retain staff, caseloads in case management and assessment teams are too high.

Inspectors highlighted:

- Staff benefit from a comprehensive training offer, which they value.

- Supervision is regular, and staff consistently told inspectors that they value support from their managers.

- The local authority’s audit programme has improved incrementally since the last inspection.

- Thresholds are applied clearly and appropriately to inform decisions about step-up and step-down between children in need, child protection and early help services.

- Most children benefit from effective help, and this is enhanced though multi-agency planning and service provision.

- The adolescent response team offers intensive support to families, and this is addressing relationship and behavioural issues effectively.

- Neglect is recognised in most cases.

- Direct work with children is well embedded.

- Management oversight is variable.

"Too many children experience changes of social workers because of social workers’ high caseloads. This impacts on social workers’ ability to develop meaningful relationships with children and families. It also causes delays in recording in the assessment teams and increases caseload volume, because cases which could be closed remain open while waiting for recording to be completed," the report concluded.

Dudley inspection

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