“Positive progress” has been noted at Dudley Council’s children’s services department by Ofsted in a monitoring visit of the authority.
In the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged to be inadequate in April 2016, inspectors said the implementation of the local authority’s improvement plan is resulting in positive progress.
“Social work practice continues to improve and this means that more children, particularly those in need of help and protection, receive an improved service,” said the report. “Children seen by inspectors are receiving sufficient levels of support and protection to minimise and manage risks.”
During the course of this visit, inspectors reviewed the progress made in the area of children in need of help and protection. Additionally, inspectors reviewed the quality of social work practice.
The report highlighted:
- Children are safe and in the vast majority of cases receive appropriate levels of support and protection.
- Social workers are committed to the children they work with, and many social workers spend time getting to know their children well.
- Social workers use a number of direct work tools effectively to understand children.
- Contacts and referrals to children’s social care are well managed, and thresholds for intervention are applied consistently.
- Strategy meetings held in the MASH are timely and effective, and involve all relevant agencies.
- Child protection conferences and core groups are well attended, and partner agencies contribute positively.
- Children’s plans are appropriately focused on the needs of the child.
However, assessments are not yet consistently good, although more recently assessments have improved and are beginning to underpin and inform children’s plans.
The report also highlights that although rates of staff turnover are reducing, sustaining a stable workforce continues to be a challenge. Just under a third of children’s social workers are agency staff. The recruitment and retention of team managers remain particularly challenging, and this means that in a small number of children’s cases management oversight and decision-making are not consistently effective or timely. As a result, planning for these children is not as robust as it needs to be.
“Social workers and managers are very proud of their work, and they remain dedicated and committed to improving services for children in Dudley,” said the report.
“The local authority continues to focus on professional development and a positive culture where the needs of children are paramount. Senior leaders and managers know that further improvement must be made to ensure that all children receive consistent and timely support. The local authority remains steady and methodical in its approach to address the actions in its improvement plan, and this work is beginning to make a positive difference to children,” it concluded.