Slough children’s service is continuing to make progress, an Ofsted monitoring visit has found.
Social work practice is improving and assessments and plans and reviews are evident in the vast majority of children’s cases, Ofsted found in the fifth monitoring visit since the authority’s children’s services were rated inadequate in February 2016.
However, inspectors identified weaknesses in the effectiveness of management oversight and they said this continues to be an area of practice that requires attention.
“This has hampered progress in some areas and consequently, the pace of improvement has been slow,” said the report of the visit.
The report focused on social work intervention with children in need and their families, management oversight and services for children on the edge of care.
The report identified that social work practice is improving. In most cases seen by inspectors, children receive effective intervention from skilled workers. Variabilities in practice are still evident. Children benefit from a range of support, but do not yet experience a consistently robust service in response to their needs.
For a small minority of children, the quality of practice still falls below the standards the trust would expect.
The quality of assessments has improved but timeliness remains a challenge, with 57% (year to date) being completed within timescales. Although some assessments take too long to complete, inspectors saw some examples of children receiving services in the intervening period, ensuring that their needs are responded to.
Skilled workers in the multidisciplinary innovation hub deliver intensive intervention, including support outside of office hours, helping children to remain in the care of their families when appropriate.
Social workers are positive about weekly hub supervision, finding this approach helpful in enabling them to reflect about the issues affecting families’ lives. However, supervision, challenge and management oversight continue to be areas for development as practice is not yet consistently good. Management oversight lacks rigour and managers are not stringent enough in making sure that children’s plans are progressed. As a result, there is sometimes drift and delay in taking action when risks to children increase, or progress is limited or not sustained.
The trust has been successful in recruiting permanent social work staff, as well as retaining a number of experienced agency staff. Staff have access to a variety of appropriate training and are supported to attend. These training opportunities are further strengthening social work practice. Staff spoke positively about working for Slough. In the trust, 81% are now permanent members of staff, compared with 72% in January 2017.
“Based on the evidence gathered during the visit, we identified areas of strength, areas where improvement is occurring, and some areas where we considered the progress has not been swift enough,” the report concluded.