Strong operational practice in early help services for children in Shropshire has been identified by Ofsted inspectors.
The Ofsted inspection team rated Shropshire’s children’s services as good overall.
“A particular focus on early help services for children who need help and protection or are at risk of child sexual exploitation, neglect and/or domestic abuse has led to strong operational practice in these areas, supported by a keen culture of learning and improvement,” said the report.
- Children and their families benefit from an extensive range of well-coordinated, multi-agency help and support.
For most children, strong social work practice enables them to achieve positive outcomes.
- Senior leaders, managers, staff and partner agencies work well together to ensure that services are continuously improved over time.
- The recruitment of a number of senior managers in the last 18 months has led to a reinvigorated focus on practice improvement in safeguarding children.
- Good understanding by partner agencies of the thresholds for access to children’s social care means that most referrals are appropriate and timely.
- Children in need and child protection services support families well.
The report highlights how social workers know the children they are working with well and use a wide range of creative and effective direct work to understand the views and circumstances of children. The majority of assessments are timely and of good quality.
Arrangements for identifying and responding to children at risk of sexual exploitation or going missing from home, school or care are good, with effective strategic operational arrangements in place.
Social worker recruitment and retention has been a challenge for the authority but managers have worked hard to build a “strong, trained workforce”.
However, inspectors found that some social work practice needs to improve further, for example, some assessments and plans require more depth and detail, case recording is not comprehensive and up to date for all children, and management oversight of the timeliness of contacts in the Compass service could be enhanced.
Assessments and care planning for children looked after, particularly to achieve permanence, require more focus so that all children, including those who are long-term fostered, are supported to achieve timely and positive outcomes.
Adoption is a strength and children who need adoption are matched well and placed very quickly with adopters. Post adoption support is exceptional, said inspectors.
More care leavers are staying in education, employment or training immediately after they reach 18, but this figure declines for older care leavers. Further work is required to provide more apprenticeships, to improve participation of care leavers in their planning and in service developments, and to ensure that detailed information about their entitlements is available.