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‘Front door’ procedures improved in Northumberland, says Ofsted

Senior managers have taken a systematic and incremental approach to improving its ‘front-door’ procedures in Northumberland, Ofsted has warned.

Inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for the ‘front-door’ service that receives both single and multi-agency contacts and referrals during its focused inspection of Northumberland.

“The current leadership team has improved the effectiveness of the local authority’s initial response to children and young people needing help and protection,” said the report. “They have implemented a single point of contact for families and professionals to raise concerns, and have established pathways into early help services, developing the use of triage, and providing early signposting to appropriate services.”

Inspectors found:

  • The front-door provides an easily accessible single point of contact for all families and professionals seeking help and support.
  • There is a timely and effective response to referrals.
  • The development of a single front-door is improving consistency in applying thresholds.
  • Management decision-making and the rationale behind the decisions made are evident on children’s electronic records.
  • Child protection investigations seen by inspectors in the MASH are timely, thorough, evidence clear information sharing and focus on risk.
  • Senior managers are proactively working with managers and social workers to improve assessments.

Social workers who spoke with inspectors were able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the needs of their children. Social workers in their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) are very well supported, benefit from reflective supervision, good training opportunities, and have protected caseloads. In fact, inspectors highlighted that the highest quality assessments seen by inspectors had been undertaken by ASYEs. Social workers at the front-door receive regular supervision. There are opportunities to discuss staff welfare, performance and development.

However, the inspection noted that while assessments are timely and are improving, they are not of consistently high quality and some assessments do not paint a clear picture of the child’s world. The response to children at risk of child sexual exploitation is also variable.

Ofsted recommends that all children at risk of child sexual exploitation should have their needs thoroughly assessed, with clear, effective safety planning to manage immediate risks and identify work needed to continue to keep them safe.

All strategy meetings should clearly identify what multi-agency information is shared, define risks, give the rationale for decision-making, and clearly detail actions to be taken to keep children safe.

“The local authority may want to review their current response to vulnerable adolescents and children affected by domestic abuse. Some social workers need to better understand the complex nature of relationships in which domestic abuse is a key feature, and improve how risk is identified and managed. This includes the use of written agreements as safety plans,” the report concluded.

Focused inspection of Northumberland

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