Improvements required for care leavers in Gloucestershire

There is still more to do to improve services to care leavers at Gloucestershire, Ofsted has said.

While some of the recommendations from the last inspection have been progressed, such as keeping in touch with care leavers, a number of areas identified for improvement remain, the monitoring visit of Gloucestershire which looked at care leavers services, management oversight, challenge and staff supervision and the arrangements for responding to allegations against adults who work with children and young people found.

“Most care leavers now benefit from regular, responsive visiting and positive relationships with their workers. Increasingly purposeful and timely planning and interventions help to improve the circumstances of young people. However, support is not effective in all areas,” said the report.

“While the majority of pathway plans are completed within required timescales, the quality is variable, and they are not routinely updated when young people’s circumstances change. Not all care leavers have access to timely mental health provision. Young people are not routinely provided with information to help them understand their health histories. The vast majority of young people live in suitable accommodation, but too many young people are not in employment, education or training,” it added.

Ofsted also found that quality assurance arrangements and performance information for care leavers is under developed and arrangements for managing allegations against adults who work or volunteer with children require strengthening.

In the seventh monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in March 2017, inspectors highlighted:

– The senior leadership team is determined to develop and improve services for young people leaving care.

– The vast majority of young people have pathway plans, but their quality varies considerably.

– Not all care leavers benefit from strong transition planning to enable them to access mental health services when they turn 18.

– The quality and consistency of practice is variable across leaving care teams.

– Despite poor pathway plans, workers are able to articulate their interventions and most are responsive to young people’s changing circumstances.

– The vast majority of young people live in accommodation that reflects their level of independence.

– The number of young people aged 19 to 21 in education, employment and training has fluctuated. It is now an improving picture at 51%, which is in line with the figure nationally.

– There are a good range of opportunities for care leavers to shape and influence service developments.

– The local authority continues to experience challenges with recruiting and retaining a permanent workforce.

– The local authority auditing programme is well embedded, and there are now systems in place to ensure oversight and progression of actions in cases of most concern.

– The quality and range of management information used by senior leaders to understand and monitor care leavers’ experiences are not yet sufficient to provide a detailed picture to understand the effectiveness of services.

– Most staff receive regular supervision, which now provides more opportunities for reflection. However, supervision is not always sufficiently challenging, nor consistently effective in driving practice improvement or ensuring that actions are completed on time.

– Arrangements to respond to allegations against adults who work or volunteer with children are underdeveloped and not yet sufficiently rigorous. Allegations management meetings are not always timely.

– The designated officer has provided an awareness-raising programme to a range of organisations on the allegations management process. However, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of the service, as performance information is limited.

“Available performance information is under-developed. This means that senior managers do not have all the information they need to satisfy themselves that the service is effective in responding to concerns regarding professionals who work with children,” the report concluded.

Monitoring visit of Gloucestershire children’s services

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