Steady progress has been made in services for care leavers and disabled children in Somerset children’s services, an Ofsted inspection has found.
However, the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in February 2015, stated that practice is not yet reliably good in all teams. Senior leaders understand the need for greater consistency and further improvement in some areas of service provision.
“The local authority is making satisfactory progress from a low starting point in improving services for care leavers and disabled children,” said a letter from inspector Emmy Tomsett to Julian Wooster, Director of Children’s Services at Somerset.
The letter highlighted that senior managers have appropriately prioritised improving frontline services for disabled children and care leavers. Steady progress has been made in implementing the recommendations for care leaver services made at the previous inspection. Consequently, improvements across the service are now contributing to sustained better outcomes for care leavers.
The monitoring visit found:
- The local authority has a clear strategic focus on supporting all care leavers in finding suitable employment, education or training.
- The number of care leavers in education, training and employment is increasing.
- Almost all care leavers benefit from a greater and better-quality choice of accommodation.
- Overall, professional practice is becoming stronger, leading to better outcomes for most care leavers.
- Safeguarding risks to care leavers are mostly well identified and responded to promptly by personal advisers.
However, while the timeliness of pathway plans has significantly improved since the last inspection, the quality of written plans remains poor. They are not concise or easy to read and, consequently, young people do not always want to read them.
Care leavers cannot access their health histories easily, and some care leavers do not receive any information about their past health to help them to make informed decisions about their future health choices.
While management oversight of casework and formal supervision of staff within the care leavers’ service are timely, they are not sufficiently effective in improving the quality of practice.
Inspectors noted that since the previous inspection, social workers in the disabled children’s service benefit from reduced caseloads, increasing their effectiveness in supporting children.