Birmingham children’s services is “maintaining progress” in services for looked after children, Ofsted has found.
In the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in November 2016, inspectors said the local authority is maintaining progress seen at the last full inspection. Additional progress and improvement was seen in specific areas such as foster to adopt and the effectiveness of challenge and escalation made by Independent Reviewing Officers.
“Children are brought into the care of the local authority appropriately, and where required the authority is taking prompt action through the courts to secure the care of children,” said the report.
Where there are concerns about the ability of parents to care for children prior to the birth of a child, assessments are thorough and timely, the report adds. Work is focused on meeting court timescales, and where these are not being met there are clear and appropriate reasons for this.
Completion of assessments during the court process, including specialist assessments, is timely.
However, the quality of care plans remains too inconsistent. While the best are detailed, with clear actions and timescales that focus on good outcomes for children, parents and carers. Weaker plans lack a clear focus on progress in key areas and timescales for actions to be achieved.
Inspectors highlighted that almost all plans demonstrated an early consideration of permanency options which enabled progress to be made towards achieving a permanent care arrangement for children without delay.
The local authority continues to deal with a legacy of bringing some children into care early in life, who have remained in care, sometimes for many years, albeit in stable placements with relatives or long-term carers. Some of these children could benefit from being made subject to residence or special guardianship orders, which would confirm the permanence of their living arrangements and reduce unnecessary social work intervention.
Reviews of plans are timely and in many, but not all, cases IROs have visited children between reviews to establish and maintain relationships with them.
Almost all reviews are focused on the needs of the child although, in a number of cases where brothers and sisters are placed together, their reviews cover all of the children and, as a result, their individual different needs are not given sufficient focus and can be overlooked. As a consequence, in a small minority of cases, there was some drift in securing the right plan for each child. Children who do not live with their siblings are supported to have regular contact with them.
Ofsted inspectors also noted that partnership working is not as robust as it could be. There is evidence of good partnership work with some services, for example, the therapeutic emotional support service, support provided internally by schools and ‘Forward Thinking’ the NHS provider of mental health services for children and young people that provides counselling for individual children.
Supervision of staff is regular, and recording is often detailed, with clear action points. The local authority’s own casework evaluation framework is effective at identifying how well social workers comply with policy and process.
“The local authority has demonstrated that it has maintained and made some further improvements to the quality of social work practice since the last inspection. Further work remains to be done to ensure that practice is consistently good and that the best outcomes for all children are achieved on a timely and consistent basis,” the report concluded.