Leaders at St Helen's have gained greater insight into the quality of social work practice with children and their families, said Ofsted.
Since the last focused visit in July 2018, the local authority has taken swift action to review a large number of children’s cases using its internal audit system. The local authority has also engaged with external partners, who have undertaken reviews of specific elements of children’s social care.
"The local authority is in the process of finalising their improvement plan, which appropriately includes actions in relation to structure, personnel, systems and practice developments," said the report. "Additionally, the local authority has recruited to an interim post of senior assistant director following the last focused visit in order to strengthen the social work expertise of the senior leadership team."
In the focused visit, inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for the ‘front door’, where contacts and referrals regarding concerns about children are received and actioned.
The report highlights:
- The front door provides an easily accessible single point of contact for all families and professionals seeking advice and support.
- Professionals from a variety of agencies make appropriate referrals to the front door.
- Social work screening is thorough and well recorded.
- Most children at risk of significant harm receive a prompt response.
- The majority of children who are the subject of child protection investigations receive the right level of intervention.
- The co-location of the front door with the social work teams supports effective information-sharing and immediate case discussion.
- Social workers reported a calm working atmosphere and improved management support. They appreciate the ability to work in an agile way and feel that this helps them maintain a better life-work balance.
Case audits reviewed by inspectors during the focused visit demonstrate that auditors identify both strengths and weaker practice. However, it is unclear how learning from audits is shared with the social workers or used more widely to improve quality of practice.
In addition, the majority of assessments of children’s needs are completed in timescales but are of variable quality.
Social workers know children well and, in most cases, records of home visits and sessions with children are comprehensive. However, there is insufficient analysis of children’s views in relation to their current circumstances and it is not always evident how children’s views influence and inform plans.
In order to improve practice, Ofsted recommends St Helen's looks at the quality and consistency of assessments and plans and the quality and use of chronologies in identifying the cumulative impact of harm suffered and in providing a clear picture of the child’s experience.
There should be meaningful analysis of children’s feelings and views to strengthen the voice of the child in case work and St Helen's should agree on the front door structure and recruit to the relevant posts.