Lancashire children’s services have continued to make some progress, a monitoring visit of the authority by Ofsted has found.
The sixth monitoring visit since the authority was judged inadequate in September 2015 and which concentrated on child protection services, highlighted that during 2017, the local authority worked with partners to streamline its front door service to develop a more efficient referral system to ensure that all children receive a timely and effective response.
“All children are now referred via a single point of access to the MASH and are screened in a timely way by social workers. Children’s needs, and the level of risk they are experiencing, are then considered by three multi-agency locality teams,” said the report. “This has improved the timeliness of response to children, enabled more effective management oversight of work, and supported a better quality of information sharing between partner agencies.”
However, the report warned that for some children living in situations where there is domestic abuse, there is a delay between incidents of abuse taking place and referrals being received by social care staff in the MASH. This leads to delay in some children getting the support they need.
- Understanding of thresholds is improving
- When children need help out of hours, this happens quickly and effectively.
- All contacts about children are passed directly to the MASH to be reviewed by qualified social workers. This is an improvement since the inspection, when unqualified staff undertook initial screening.
- Referrals are recorded by social workers and reviewed by managers in a timely way.
- Management oversight of work in the MASH is organised and ensures a timely response for the majority of work.
- Social workers in the MASH receive regular supervision.
The report also acknowledged that the records of section 47 inquiries evidence the actions taken during the investigation, including children being seen and spoken to, but are focused on the recent incident rather than a wider analysis of risk.
In some cases seen, parents were contacted at too early a stage, and the issue of consent was discussed with them before the workers had reviewed the historical information available.
In addition, the understanding of, and response to, children who are experiencing domestic abuse in their families is not well developed. This is despite referrals from the police forming the largest proportion of work in the MASH with the majority of these are reports of incidents of domestic abuse. The local authority has already identified this as a weakness and is planning to review practice in the MASH.
“The staff resource to develop the revised MASH has been created with temporary funding and is currently comprised of 63% agency social workers and managers. The management structure remains unclear and is currently reliant on additional temporary capacity,” said the report.
“The local authority plans to establish the current model as a permanent arrangement, but funding for this has not yet been agreed by the council. Although many agency staff have been in the service for some time, and some want to stay, some risk remains regarding the future stability and sustainability of this service,” the report concludes.