Some children in Croydon remain in neglectful circumstances for too long because thresholds are not applied consistently, Ofsted has warned.
In its third monitoring visit of Croydon since the authority was judged to be inadequate in September 2017, inspectors found that overall, progress in the area of child protection has been too slow and too many children do not receive a service that meets their needs.
“The pace of change since the inspection in September 2017 has been too slow. The newly appointed director of children’s services and senior managers are in the process of refreshing the improvement plan so that priority areas are tackled with increased vigour,” said the report, which concentrated on progress made in the area of help and protection.
The report found:
- There is inconsistency in the application and understanding of thresholds and this is impacting on the quality of care planning for children.
- Decisions to ‘step up’ are not taken quickly enough when children’s needs change or risks escalate.
- Many children who are subject to a child in need plan are not seen often enough, and their reviews are not held frequently enough to consider whether their needs have changed.
- At the time of the monitoring visit, there were 23 cases allocated to a manager, with no named social worker and there is no clear process to manage these cases.
- The recording of direct work with children on case records is variable and it is not clear how this is used to influence their plans.
- Performance data on social worker caseload volume is inaccurate, as it fails to take into account the cases that are currently allocated to team managers.
However, the effective use of the pre-proceedings phase of the PLO is improving and an increasing number of children have become subject to these arrangements since the last inspection. However, there are delays for too many children.
Furthermore, there is evidence of more consistent management oversight since the last monitoring visit, but this is still too variable. The application of the local authority’s practice model is becoming increasingly evident in more recent case supervision records.
Senior managers have taken active steps to reduce caseloads by increasing the number of teams within the care planning service. However, an increase in demand and a high vacancy rate mean that caseloads remain high. Front line staff and managers expressed concern about increasing workloads and not always being able to undertake their statutory visits on time. A lack of capacity within the workforce means that when workers are on leave, off sick or leave the organisation, managers struggle to ensure that children receive a satisfactory service.
“Senior managers have recognised that the identification of neglect is an area for development, and social workers in the care planning teams are currently being trained on the use of the graded care profile,” said the report. “This has not yet been implemented, but social workers were positive about the training that they had received and were looking forward to putting it into practice.”