The quality of early help services at Dudley children’s services has improved since the last inspection, Ofsted has said.
The sixth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged to be inadequate in April 2016 which concentrated on Dudley’s early help offer to children and families found more children are able to access support as a result of the improvements.
“This has prevented some children from requiring a statutory service and, as a result, more children are receiving a service which is commensurate with their levels of need,” said the report.
- Children’s needs are identified promptly through screening and information-sharing across partners in the MASH.
- There are a clear understanding and consistent application of thresholds through the early help service and the MASH.
- Daily domestic abuse referral triage meetings held in the MASH, provide an effective multi-agency forum to ensure that domestic abuse referrals for early help are dealt with promptly and effectively.
- A team around the child meetings are held regularly and involve those partner agencies most involved with the child and family.
- Most early help staff are tenacious in engaging with parents, including fathers. Many children benefit from direct work that skilfully captures and directly informs their assessments, ongoing plans and decision-making.
However, the report highlights that the local authority is aware that multi-agency referrals that do not meet the threshold for statutory intervention are only recorded on the early help system and not on the children’s social care recording system. Although manual checks are undertaken in the MASH, this could lead to gaps in available information.
Furthermore, early help assessments do not routinely reflect the positive multi-agency engagement that takes place. Historical factors and patterns are not considered sufficiently, and chronologies are not used effectively.
The quality of supervision varies across the family support hubs. Some staff receive excellent supervision which offers an opportunity for reflection and learning and progresses outcomes for children. However, some staff supervision lacks depth.
“Family support workers in the hubs know the children they work with well, they are enthusiastic and committed to providing positive outcomes for children. These improvements have resulted in stronger and more effective practice,” said the report.
“This work is having a positive impact, improving the lives of an increasing number of children and families. The local authority recognises that more needs to be done to ensure consistent practice across all hubs and partners,” the report concluded.