Greater workforce confidence has been identified by Ofsted inspectors in a follow-up visit of Reading children’s services.
Skilled, experienced early help practitioners and their managers have a stronger profile and influence in children’s services. This is demonstrated in greater workforce confidence, exemplified through, for example, more rigorous escalations of safeguarding concerns to the children’s single point of access (SPA), said the report of the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in June 2016.
“Contact and referrals in the SPA are managed promptly, supported by consistent management oversight. The quality and reliability of threshold decision-making in the SPA have improved considerably, but is not yet entirely consistent. However, the SPA became fully operational only shortly before the monitoring visit,” said the report.
The recently established SPA includes a range of partner agencies, most of which are located together, with others readily available through effective communication arrangements.
This is resulting in a shared understanding and application of threshold decision-making, particularly concerning domestic abuse, which comprises a large percentage of contacts and referrals. Experienced, committed social workers and managers have been recruited to work in the SPA, and the impact is demonstrated in prompt responses to contacts and referrals, and in improved decision-making.
The report found:
- Most referrals and decisions to proceed to child protection investigations are appropriate and timely.
- The majority of child protection enquiries are of a good quality and closely reviewed by managers.
- The quality of single assessments continues to improve, and most are of a competent standard.
- The children’s improvement plan has been shortened and is rightly focused on key outcomes for children.
- Morale in the early help services is high.
The report noted that the LSCB has refreshed and developed the impact of partnership engagement and is more aligned with the CSIB, in which the engagement of police and health has significantly improved.
Good progress has been made in the recruitment of permanent third-tier service managers, and significant inroads are being made into the recruitment of more permanent team managers. However, the recruitment of more permanent social workers remains difficult.