Improved care leavers services at Southampton: a “determined and stable senior leadership team” has made positive improvements to the services for care leavers in Southampton after services for care leavers were rated inadequate in the last inspection.
The Ofsted single inspection in 2014 found that services to children in Southampton required improvement to be good and that services to care leavers were inadequate. However, a focused visit looking at services for care leavers found a strong commitment and financial investment from political leaders.
“The local authority in its role as a corporate parent now demonstrates a real commitment to improving outcomes for young people,” said Ofsted. “The vast majority of young people now live in suitable accommodation and personal advisers are regularly in touch with them.”
Further, senior managers have a clear vision on what still needs to be done and recognise there is still some variability in the quality of assessments, pathway plans, and case recording.
The report explains that since the last inspection in 2014, the local authority has restructured its services for care leavers with a dedicated service now providing support to children and young people from 14 years onwards. Ofsted said this service is making a tangible difference for some care leavers, enabling them to make successful transitions to independence. Social workers and personal advisers work closely together to ensure that young people becoming care leavers receive a seamless service.
Care leavers and personal advisers report a much-improved service over the past year.
- Personal advisers are tenacious in maintaining contact and see young people regularly.
- Personal advisers know their young people well and engage them in pathway planning.
- Social workers and personal advisers prioritise care leavers’ safety and recognise risks such as those related to trafficking, exploitation and possible radicalisation.
- There is appropriate support in place for young people who wish to enter higher education and there are currently 12 care leavers attending university and six on apprenticeship schemes.
- Care leavers benefit from access to a wide range of suitable accommodation.
- A range of professionals, including the family nurse partnership, provide good support to care leavers.
However, inspectors noted that bed and breakfast establishments have been used as a last resort for five care leavers in the past six months and these arrangements are not always subject to rigorous assessment to ensure that any potential risk is understood and responded to.
There is variability in the quality of management oversight and supervision. Inspectors saw some good quality, reflective, analytical supervision and management oversight, but this is not consistently the case.
In order to improve care leavers services further, the quality of needs assessments, including the assessment of risk when using unsuitable accommodation should be addressed. Care leavers should have access to their health histories and the take up and quality of return home interviews needs improving.
The report concludes: “Workers are aspirational for their young people and celebrate their successes. Care leavers describe strong and meaningful relationships with their personal advisers. They feel supported by independent visitors and advocates, who champion on their behalf and help improve their outcomes.”