Some children’s needs are not being met in Slough because managers do not always identify practice weaknesses quickly enough, Ofsted has warned.
Key actions within children’s plans are not always carried out in good time and, for some children, this leads to unnecessary delay in their needs being met, or in plans for children’s permanence not being achieved quickly enough.
“The pace of improvement has not been swift enough in all areas of practice relating to children looked after,” said inspectors following the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in February 2016.
From a low base, leaders have secured improvement in some parts of the children looked after service. However, managers have not ensured that the core elements of social work practice are evident enough in casework, inspectors added. As a result, the support that children looked after receive is inconsistent.
Leaders have taken effective steps to strengthen some aspects of the children looked after service. Long-term planning for children has improved since the last inspection, with a clearer focus on achieving permanence.
All of the children looked after whose cases were considered during the visit have a care plan, and most plans are up to date. However, plans too often falter when a child is allocated to a new social worker, the report said.
Managers do not always oversee practice effectively to ensure that children receive the right help at the right time and the use of legal processes to safeguard children and promote their permanence is too variable.
When children looked after go missing, most are now seen when they return, however, the accounts of these conversations do not always analyse what should happen to reduce the risk of children going missing again.
Most children benefit from regular social work visits, and some benefit from additional time with their social worker when this is needed. However, visiting frequency does not always adapt to children’s changing circumstances.
Workforce data shows an increase in the number of permanent social workers who are joining Slough Children’s Services Trust, and a decrease in those who are leaving. The number of agency social workers continues to decline, however, in a number of cases witnessed during the visit, children had experienced too many changes of social worker.
In the cases considered during the visit, children’s health needs had been well assessed. “Following a recent decline in performance, work is underway to develop a more effective system to ensure that health assessments are consistently carried out in good time.