Children and families in Halton receive a timely and proportionate response to initial identified needs and concerns, Ofsted has concluded.
In a focused visit of the authority's arrangements for contacts and referrals in the integrated contact and referral team (iCART) and thresholds for children in need and child protection, with a focus on children and families stepping down to early help, inspectors found the quality of work in responding effectively to contacts has improved since the last inspection in November 2014.
"The local authority response to children at risk of harm or in need of help was appropriate in all cases that were seen at this visit," said the report. "However, partners do not always effectively capture the voice of the child when contacting the local authority."
Management oversight, quality assurance and performance information arrangements are particularly strong, with managers ensuring that work is appropriately prioritised and progressed.
Inspectors found evidence of sustained and improved partnership working between children’s services and their partners when screening contacts, including police and health colleagues, domestic abuse services and, more recently, children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
The report highlighted that:
- Contacts about children and families are appropriately screened in the iCART.
- Children and families in Halton benefit from a broad early help offer from across the wider partnership in order to respond to the identified needs of the child.
- The quality of information recorded by officers attending domestic violence incidents is improving, supported by continual training, although the impact of the domestic abuse for the child is not yet consistently considered by referring police officers.
- The circumstances of children in Halton who have been missing over the previous week are reviewed thoroughly at a weekly multi-agency meeting.
- Children at risk of significant harm are appropriately identified in the iCART, and strategy discussions are held within 24 hours.
- Management oversight is routinely evident in case records, and case direction is clearly recorded on contact forms.
Managers employ an effective range of methods to scrutinise and review the quality of information sharing, decision-making and the appropriate application of thresholds in the iCART. A particular strength is the quality of auditing of contacts.
However, partners do not always effectively capture the voice of the child when contacting the local authority and this should be addressed to improve social work practice.
The involvement of relevant partners in all strategy discussions and the clear recording of all agreed actions needs addressing and the autority should review the use of data and information collected from return home interviews when children have been missing in order to inform the strategic partnership response.
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