Kent Council children's services has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the front door service, according to Ofsted.
Ofsted last inspected Kent county council children’s services in 2017, giving an overall judgement of good, with the response to children who need help and protection graded as requiring improvement to be good.
A focused inspection which reviewed the local authority’s arrangements for managing contacts and referrals at the ‘front door’ and decision-making in relation to children who need help and protection found Kent has appropriately acted on feedback from the last inspection, with a firm focus on the front door arrangements.
"Since October 2018, there has been a single integrated route for accessing early help, intensive and higher level statutory social work services. Early signs are that the new arrangements have been implemented well," said the report.
Through corporate investment, Kent has increased senior and operational management capacity at the front door and have strengthened management oversight of the newly configured service.
Most decisions about helping and protecting children seen by inspectors were appropriate, managers swiftly triage all new referrals and the local authority strives to be forward-thinking in practice development, as shown by the very recent successful bid to develop a contextual safeguarding approach to adolescent vulnerability and a strategic focus on developing trauma-informed integrated adolescent services.
- The front door is a high-volume but efficiently run service.
- Contacts and referrals receive prompt review by experienced and knowledgeable managers, and management oversight was present in all cases seen by inspectors.
- In the majority of cases seen by inspectors, decisions to transfer work to one of the two tiers of the local authority’s early help service were appropriate.
- When child protection concerns are referred to the front door, in the majority of cases the response is proportionate and prompt.
- Live and retrospective performance information about activity at the front door is helpful to managers.
- The response at the front door to children who are missing is well organised, despite the large volume of such notifications.
- Family group conferences (FGCs) for adolescents who go missing are examples of innovative practice.
- The quality assurance framework demonstrates a clear commitment by senior leaders and managers to using a range of methods, including case audits and peer review challenge as a means of improving practice.
In order to improve practice, Kent should focus on the existing audit methodology, to increase the focus on the impact of practice on improving outcomes for children. Kent should also improve initial front door decision-making, to ensure that triage decisions comprehensively consider and record the potential or likely risks to children and that next steps are recorded with a commensurate level of urgency.
Further recommendations include improving the multi-agency action planning for vulnerable and exploited adolescents to ensure that this is outcome-focused, time limited and rigorously followed up and to focus on the timeline of the initial response to children who are transferred to the early help service.