Ofsted inspectors saw good evidence of improvement across all services areas at Manchester Council as they stated that the council’s children’s services are no longer ‘inadequate’.
Rating children’s services in Manchester as ‘requires improvement to be good’, inspectors highlighted strong leadership, an ambitious and well-articulated vision, ‘Our Manchester, our children’ and robust governance arrangements which are leading to improved outcomes for children and young people in need of help and protection.
“The pace of change has accelerated in the last 18 months since the appointment of the current director of children’s services (DCS) and his senior management team,” said the report. “They, together with the chief executive, have been instrumental in driving the transformation plan.”
Successful workforce planning and development have resulted in the recruitment of 40% more frontline social workers to the locality and permanence teams, reducing the average number of cases allocated to each social worker, although some newly qualified social workers had higher caseloads than expected by national guidelines. No cases are unallocated.
In a small minority of cases, management oversight has not been effective in ensuring progress on children’s plans, resulting in drift and delay.
Effective early help protects children and families from harm. The vast majority of Manchester’s looked after children are kept safe, and the decisions that they should be looked after are mostly timely and appropriate. A multi-agency edge-of-care panel meets weekly to ensure that children receive the right service at the right time. This has had a positive impact on reducing the number of children who become looked after.
Services for adopted children are good, which is a significant improvement on the last inspection when adoption services were judged to be inadequate. Care leavers report that they feel safe and that they are confident that staff are working to keep them safe. Staff work well together with young people to minimise risk.
“Strong partnership work between the local authority and the police, at both strategic and operational levels, is having a positive impact on vulnerable children. This includes children at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation, those missing from home or care and those at risk of radicalisation. Work with these children and their families is increasingly effective, with examples of good assessments and targeted work to reduce risks,” the report concludes.
Councillor Sheila Newman, Executive Member for Children’s Services for Manchester City Council, said that an extra 86 social workers and 14 managers have been recruited.
“We are very pleased that Ofsted have seen clear evidence of improvements since the last inspection and the positive difference that is being made to lives of Manchester children.
“This endorsement is the result of commitment, focus and sheer hard work by everyone involved in this process – from senior officers and members to frontline staff.
“This inspection result is a cause for satisfaction but not celebration. This is not the end of our improvement journey and there is absolutely no room for complacency. 'Requires improvement' means exactly that. We said at the time of the last inspection that we would not rest until services were rated 'good' and we remain firmly fixed on that goal. We are making clear progress but we are determined to keep improving to ensure we are delivering the best possible services for our young people.
“We know what we need to get there, have plans in place and our focus now is pressing on with them,” she concluded.
Diane Wills is Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, responsible for quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
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