Services for children and families on the Isles of Scilly have improved since the single inspection in 2016, Ofsted has said.
While services were graded as good in 2016, leaders have made further positive changes. Services are now stronger, with particularly noticeable improvements in early help and preventative services. These services are well embedded, reducing the need for statutory support and leading to consistently positive outcomes for children and families.
"Partner agencies and the council place children firmly at the forefront of strategic planning and service delivery. Senior and political leaders form a highly effective, skillful and flexible core team. They use a ‘co-production’ approach, working collaboratively with families and partners to build increasingly effective local services for children. This is critical in the context of a small island community," said the report.
The self-assessment undertaken by the local authority accurately details what is working well, and it is equally clear about what is still an area of development, for example, the need to improve the sufficiency of local foster placements. Senior leaders actively look for best practice and they seek out, and act on, scrutiny and feedback. They successfully use this learning, and their detailed knowledge of the community, to continually develop services to meet the needs of local children.
Excellent direct work by the children’s workforce helps children and parents to understand their situation, and it improves their well-being. Children’s views are carefully considered and central to plans.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was rated as outstanding and the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers and overall effectiveness were rated as 'good'.
In terms of the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, Ofsted highlighted:
- An increasing number of children and families receive exceptionally skilled and flexible early help services from an ever-widening range of multi-agency early help professionals.
- The ‘front door’ provides accurate and timely social work advice and partners place a high value on this and have a shared understanding of thresholds.
- Social workers make timely, well-informed decisions about the help children and families need.
- A highly responsive emergency duty service is in place, and support from other agencies is well synchronised.
- Few children go missing or are at risk of criminal and sexual exploitation. However, a skilled children’s services practitioner works purposefully with partners to publicise the risks that children might face in the Isles of Scilly location.
- Social workers see children very regularly and form close and meaningful bonds that are important to children.
- Children’s plans, which are derived from regular reviews, are up to date and well written.
- Social workers’ support for disabled children is skilled and thoughtful. Senior managers are attuned to the potential burden of statutory processes for families, and they work hard to align and reduce the number of meetings.
Regarding the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, the report says:
- When children experience increased risks, professionals respond promptly and decisively to ensure that they are protected, ideally within their own family.
- Since the last inspection, senior leaders have taken some steps to secure a small local fostering resource and to develop plans to make available placements for children to come into care in an emergency. However, the sufficiency strategy does not outline in enough detail how these plans will work in practice or what the
parameters are in terms of good practice.
- Decisions about where children who need local authority care should live are very carefully considered.
- Children benefit from enduring and stable relationships with their social worker.
- Planning for children’s futures is underpinned by comprehensive and risk-based assessments.
- There are no care leavers on the Isles of Scilly. This does not stop political and senior leaders from carefully considering their roles and responsibilities if a care leaver were to arrive or a child were to leave care.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families were rated as outstanding:
- Leaders place a high value on all children and take their roles as corporate parents seriously. The council describes children’s services as the ‘jewel in the council’s crown’.
- Senior leaders have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the islands’ community, the quality of local services and the effectiveness of practice that is provided to support children and their families.
- Partnership arrangements are mature, trusting and appropriately challenging.
- As new needs or risks have arisen on the Isles of Scilly, all agencies have been quick to identify dangers and respond swiftly to protect children.
- The senior leadership team and the lead member are an ambitious, reflective, and analytical team with an accurate self-assessment of its services.
- Performance management information is comprehensive and is supplemented with a range of quality assurance activities and one-off learning events to ensure continual improvement.
- Because of the small size of the community and her commitment to consultation and partnership, the DCS engages with, and is seen continuously by, children, staff and islanders.
- The workforce development strategy aims to raise the skill base of all of the council workforce and children’s services professionals, so that most issues that affect children and families can be dealt with on the islands.
"Staff morale is high. This is an environment in which social work practice flourishes. Social workers have busy but manageable caseloads. They have access to a wide range of learning opportunities and, through ‘scenario training’, keep up to date with issues which may present in the future," the report concluded.
In order to improve, there should be greater clarity among education colleagues about what is a contact and what is informal advice.
The recording of decisions that are made in strategy meetings should be improved to more clearly demonstrate rationale for decisions and consideration of the significant harm threshold.
The quality of assessments and other case records need improving to ensure that they are consistently up to date and easily understood by children and families.
The sufficiency of on-island foster placements needs addressing and the clarity of
quality practice standards for emergency placements.
Council of the Isles of Scilly - Inspection of children’s social care services
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