Enfield children's services has made considerable progress in many areas of practice since the last Ofsted inspection, the inspectorate has said.
The focused visit which concentrated on the local authority's arrangements for children who need help and protection found that since the Ofsted single inspection in 2015, senior leaders, together with their staff and partners, have continued to work extremely hard, in challenging circumstances, to help and protect vulnerable children and their families.
"However, this visit did find serious weaknesses in relation to the application of thresholds for a number of children who had suffered significant harm," said the report. "These weaknesses were confined to one service area, and were not systemic."
"Some children had disclosed physical and sexual abuse, but these cases had not been progressed to a strategy discussion and child protection medical examinations had not been considered," the report added.
The report highlighted:
- Persistent, respectful work carried out by skilled staff in the change and challenge service, the parenting support unit, the child sexual exploitation prevention team and by highly capable early help practitioners is making a real difference to children and their parents.
- There is a timely response to referrals, with most cases transferring promptly from the single point of entry (SPOE) to social care teams or to early help and universal services.
- Changes to the SPOE, which include separating the early help hub from the MASH, have created additional capacity, ensuring a more timely and proportionate response to safeguarding referrals.
- Communication on cases of concern happens routinely. The co-location of agencies in the SPOE is a strength, as staff confer constantly.
However, social work caseloads in the referral and assessments teams are too high. At the time of the visit, many social workers were responsible for between 28 to 33 cases. Additional social workers have been recruited and are due to begin in October 2018.
Assessments vary in quality, ranging from a good analysis of each child’s individual needs and risks to superficial over-optimistic and adult-focused practice.
Further, managers are provided with a range of performance data, but this is not comprehensive enough to help them to manage effectively, and the data is not sufficiently reliable.
In order to improve social work practice, Enfield should focus on the appropriate application of child protection thresholds for children at risk of significant harm and deal with social work caseloads in the referral and assessment team.
The timeliness of case transfer when assessments are completed needs work as does the quality and consistency of assessments and plans.
Finally, Enfield should look at the quality and effectiveness of management oversight and supervision and the range and accuracy of performance data and audits.