Progress has been made in The Wirral strategic response to children looked after, through the implementation of new processes and procedures, said Ofsted.
In the sixth monitoring visit of the authority since it was rated inadequate in September 2016, Ofsted found progress had been made after the experiences and progress for children looked after and achieving permanence was deemed to be ‘requiring improvement’ in the September report.
“However, more work is needed to improve social work practice to ensure that all children looked after receive a good service that improves their experiences. The local authority is aware of the shortfalls in practice and is taking steps to address them,” said the report, which focused on the experiences and progress of children who had recently become looked after, including those children at risk of child sexual exploitation and those on the edge of care, including pre-birth assessments.
All the children’s cases reviewed by inspectors met the threshold for care. Their progress towards legal permanence is monitored to ensure that it is timely. Children of all ages are appropriately considered for care and older children have a suitable range of options to help them progress towards independence.
All of the children reviewed are benefiting from being looked after and having social work input and inspectors saw good examples of purposeful direct work with children. Despite this, assessments of older children who have had lengthy involvements with children’s services take insufficient account of their earlier experiences. This means that important information is missing from their assessments and therefore does not inform their plan.
The report found:
- The audits of social work practice are generally appropriate.
- All the children reviewed met the threshold for care.
- Once children become looked after, their progress is tracked to ensure that permanency plans and legal security are achieved as swiftly as possible.
- The need for older children and young people to become looked after is properly considered, although there is high demand for suitable places and this limits choice.
- Children do not always benefit from effective work between partner agencies.
- The local authority has recently implemented daily child sexual exploitation multi-disciplinary meetings.
- Where there are concerns for the unborn children, monthly multi-disciplinary meetings are held, and the pregnant woman is provided with support appropriate to their level of need and risks.
“Recently introduced arrangements to oversee children at risk of child sexual exploitation are robust. However, practice is too variable and some children at risk of child sexual exploitation need better support and protection,” the report concluded.