Front door contact at Sheffield praised by Ofsted

The front-door contact, referral and assessment arrangements in Sheffield work well to keep children safe, Ofsted has found in an inspection of the authority.

Senior managers have worked hard to implement and develop the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub (SSH) over the last year, with timely and effective links to the area field work teams ensuring that children are safeguarded.

“Multi-agency partners are effectively engaged and contribute positively to the developments and the quality of the work,” said the report. “With safe and robust arrangements in place, the quality and consistency of practice continue to develop.”

Inspectors highlighted that:

  • Tenacious evidence gathering, including historical and multi-agency information, is well analysed and subject to rigorous management oversight and challenge.
  • Thresholds are consistently applied within the SSH.
  • When children’s cases are transferred to area teams from the SSH, the swift allocation of their cases is underpinned by strong management oversight that gives the social workers clear and helpful case direction.
  • When the SSH makes decisions to refer to early help services, these decisions are generally appropriate and balance risk and need well.
  • Immediate risk of significant harm is identified effectively and responses are prompt and well-coordinated.
  • When decisions are made to accommodate children or young people, these are appropriate and matched to children’s needs and risk.
  • Risks to children from domestic abuse are identified well and responded to effectively.
  • Staff are positive about working in Sheffield and about the support, guidance and training they receive.

However, the report highlights that the quality of referral information received from partner agencies is variable and does not consistently contain all relevant information or provide clarity about what service or response is being requested.

The analyses within assessments do consider risk and protective factors and are balanced in the conclusions reached. There is insufficient consideration of or engagement with absent fathers or fathers who live separately, and what this means for the children, within the majority of assessments.

Ofsted recommends that fathers who are absent or living separately should be engaged promptly wherever possible and work with the child should explore in detail their feelings and views in relation to their absent father.

Improvements to the timeliness and effectiveness of coordination between the emergency duty team and the police should continue and there should be prompt availability of emergency beds out of hours.

Decisions to exit from S47 enquiries should be recorded at the point at which the decision is made, with a clear rationale for that decision. The decision needs to be clearly and promptly communicated to parents.

Feedback to families about the outcome decisions from the SSH should always be given promptly and clearly and in ways which are meaningful for the family.

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