IT system at North Tyneside is ‘barely fit for purpose’ says Ofsted

Children’s social workers at North Tyneside have been forced to ‘work around’ an inadequate IT system that fails to ‘support good social work practice,’ Ofsted has found.

The inspectorate rated North Tyneside ‘good’ overall, but inspectors criticised the electronic client database as “barely fit for purpose”.

“Despite much good work across children’s services, the recording of social workers’ involvement with children is inconsistent,” said the report. “There are variable approaches to social work recording and completion of key documentation.”

“The quality of supervision notes is also variable and, for a small number of cases, this means that it is not always possible to evidence reflective and directive management oversight,” the report added, attributing the blame to the IT system in place.

However, the inspection acknowledged that senior managers are fully aware of the issues, and the system is due to be replaced in 2018. Temporary arrangements have been put in place to attempt to strengthen the current system, however, social workers raised issues to inspectors about the additional work needed and about how the different screens needing to be completed do not help them to record ongoing work and key documentation fully.

“Despite these significant issues, social workers work ‘around the system’, and much recording is of a good quality,” noted inspectors. However, this was not consistent on all of the children’s files seen by inspectors. For instance, written plans do not always evidence the high-quality work being undertaken.

The inspection highlighted that services for children in North Tyneside are good. In the vast majority of cases seen by inspectors, children have benefited from high-quality social work and well-coordinated partnership working, and this has demonstrably improved their lives.

Strong political and senior manager leadership ensures that improving outcomes for children and young people is at the heart of North Tyneside Council. This shapes its strategic priorities and effectively influences partners in sharing their ambition and commitment to improve children’s lives.

Engagement and participation are a particular strength and children are not only heard, but their views are shaping and driving service improvement.

Good workforce development, commissioning of services and performance monitoring contribute to delivering effective services and solid social work practice and inspectors saw evidence of robust social work practice.

The inspection highlighted that the services for care leavers are outstanding and attributed this to council leaders and senior managers having high aspirations for all care leavers and consistently listening to the views of young people and valuing their contribution.

The inspection recommends that North Tyneside:

  • Ensures that support to children who are privately fostered is timely, managed well and effectively meets the needs of children.
  • Ensures that life story work and later life letters are of consistently good quality and completed in a timely way to ensure that children and their adopters have a clear understanding of a child’s history in preparation for placement and for later life understanding.
  • Ensures that supervision for all staff is consistently of good quality because it is reflective, directive, regular and well recorded.
  • Ensures that actions identified as a result of audits are specific and measurable and have timescales.

Councillor Ian Grayson, Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “We work incredibly hard to ensure all children in North Tyneside are cared for, safeguarded and healthy.

“It is fantastic to see the quality of our services recognised by Ofsted and this result is a credit to everyone in our team that works so hard to make sure North Tyneside’s children have the best chances in life,” he concluded.

North Tyneside inspection report