Performance management and management oversight are strong overall in Plymouth, said Ofsted.
A focused visit to Plymouth which looked at the local authority’s arrangements at the first point of contact for children who need help and protection in accordance with the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services framework found that senior leaders and members have focused on improving services for vulnerable children.
“Overall, contacts and referrals are responded to promptly. However, leaders recognise that this could be improved further. In order to achieve a consistently timely response for all children, senior managers are comprehensively restructuring services at the ‘front door’,” said the report.
- Agencies work well together in the multi-agency hub.
- Thresholds are understood and are applied appropriately.
- Assessments are consistently good; they include family history and information that has been shared by other agencies.
- When appropriate, children are seen alone by social workers and direct work is an integral part of social work practice.
- Recording of the outcome of direct work with children and parents is concise and clear and informs assessments and care planning.
- Management oversight is evident throughout children’s case records.
- Social workers are well supported to develop their knowledge and skills through a comprehensive learning and development offer, and this contributes to good retention of staff.
- Social worker morale is high and most social workers told inspectors their caseloads are manageable.
In order to improve social work practice, child protection strategy discussions and meetings should include contributions from children’s social care, police, education and health services, as a minimum, to ensure that decisions about significant harm take account of all relevant information.
Child in need and child protection plans should clearly outline for children, families and professionals what needs to change, and should include specific attributed tasks and achievable timescales. Transfer of case responsibility between teams should be quicker in order to reduce delay and disruption to children and families.
Accommodation for children requiring emergency care placements, including 16-and 17-year-olds who present as homeless, should be appropriate to their needs, provide protection from potential risks and promote their well-being. Swift implementation of the local authority’s ‘Safeguarding HUB and Gateway integration project plan’ is needed in order to improve the quality of management, the report concluded.