Senior leaders have a clear vision for continually improving services for vulnerable children in Hampshire, said Ofsted.
The senior leadership team’s ambitious plans for building capacity through service transformation are evidence based and are underpinned by considerable financial investment by political leaders, a focused visit of Hampshire found.
"The senior leadership team has an accurate view of the quality of services for children in need of protection. They had already identified, prior to the focused visit, most of the areas for development identified by inspectors," said the report, which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children subject to a child protection plan.
A key part of the transformation programme is the introduction of the children’s assessment and safeguarding teams (CAST). This has involved the integration of the initial assessment and the children in need teams, reducing the number of transition points for children and families.
Although this has resulted in some inevitable disruption for some children and staff, morale is good and increasing stability is evident.
Social workers are well supported through the development of mixed-skill teams, which include personal assistants, children and family support workers and social work assistants. These workers provide administrative and practical support to social workers, as well as specialist intervention skills. This enables social workers to spend more time doing purposeful direct work.
The report highlighted:
- The implementation of the CAST model is beginning to reduce the number of transition points for children who need help and protection.
- Assessments are keenly focused on risks and strengths and identify children’s needs well.
- When children’s needs escalate, decisive action is taken to ensure that they are safeguarded.
- Child protection enquiries are comprehensive and provide a good overview of actions taken.
- Child protection conferences are appropriately convened when risks to children escalate.
- Partnership working is a strength; partners engage readily in child protection conferences and plans.
- When concerns increase, or do not reduce, pre-proceedings under the Public Law Outline are effectively initiated.
- Management oversight is effective.
The report said that some caseloads are higher than leaders would like, but they are beginning to reduce as the workforce increases in line with the transformation plan.
The quality of the strategy discussions carried out by the district teams on children’s cases that are already open to the service requires some improvement. The quality of child protection plans requires some improvement and Ofsted recommends this is tackled in order to improve social work practice.
There should also be consistency in ensuring that all children subject to pre-proceedings are reviewed regularly to ensure that all plans and actions progress in good time.