A summary of Ofsted reports of children's services published during July.
Wokingham requires improvement to be good, says Ofsted
Children’s services at Wokingham require improvement to be good, Ofsted has said.
The report outlines that last summer, Wokingham children’s social care services experienced a rapid rise in demand for services, which, combined with instability at the leadership level, and a high turnover of social care staff, led to a deterioration in the quality of services for children.
“The duty, triage and assessment team was at breaking point. Elsewhere in Wokingham, children and families were experiencing multiple changes of social workers and there was extensive evidence of drift and delay. A focused visit in November 2018 concluded that at that stage, while new senior leaders had developed a clearer understanding of areas for improvement and had redesigned the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH), the situation remained fragile,” said the report following the inspection of children’s services.
“Six months on, the position has improved. Senior leaders have managed to achieve a degree of stability. There is a sense of renewed optimism among managers and staff. However, the quality of social work practice is still too variable,” it added. “Too many children and families are still not getting the right level of help and protection, care and support they need when they need it.”
Staff turnover impedes progress at Reading
The ongoing high turnover of social work staff at all levels of Reading children’s services continues to impede progress in improving the quality of services, Ofsted has warned.
In the second visit since responsibility for delivering children’s social care and early help services in Reading transferred to Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) in December 2018, inspectors said high turnover has contributed to drift and delay in progressing work with many children and families and they do not always have a named social worker.
At the monitoring visit in February 2018, there were a significant number of children’s cases that were not allocated to social workers. In May 2019, this recurred, and leaders identified that 171 children did not have a named social worker.
“Performance management data and the outcome of audits have identified the areas where improvement is essential. However, the lack of staff means that progress, when it is made, is very difficult to sustain. Senior leaders underline the commitment of BFfC to making the recruitment and retention of staff their utmost priority. However, this has yet to have significant impact on the quality of service that children receive in Reading,” said the report.
Tower Hamlets goes from inadequate to good in two years
Tower Hamlets children’s services has turned itself around from inadequate in 2017 to good in the latest inspection of the children’s services.
Ofsted said Tower Hamlets has “substantially improved” children’s services with leaders and managers having had a relentless focus to improve practice to deliver good experiences and progress for children and their families.
“Effective and well-coordinated universal and early help provision means that children and families receive good help when they need it. Children in need, including those in need of protection, benefit from good assessments that inform plans to reduce risk and improve children’s circumstances,” said the report.
Significant improvements at Wiltshire
There have been significant improvements at Wiltshire since the last inspection in 2015, when all areas of the service required improvement to be good.
Ofsted has now rated the authority’s children’s services as good, saying the determined and well-focused leadership of the executive director, combined with the corporate resolution of key elected members, has paid dividends for children in Wiltshire.
“With strong political and corporate support, senior leaders have succeeded in stabilising the workforce and giving social workers the time they need to work purposefully with families and children. The local authority has improved its services for children and offers a consistently good response to families and children in need of help and protection.
Senior leaders have built strong partnerships that strengthen the response that families get when they are in crisis,” said the report.
Ofsted notes slow progress at Tameside
Progress had been slow at Tameside since the last inspection in 2016, when services for children were judged to be inadequate, Ofsted has said.
However, the inspection of children’s services found that more recently, significant changes in senior leadership have supported the adoption of a much strengthened ‘whole-council’ commitment to improving the quality and impact of services for children.
“This has not only been the case within the children’s services department but also more widely within the local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and political leadership,” said the report. “As a result, there has been a notable increase in the pace and effectiveness of service development. Leaders have an improved understanding of how well services are working for children and of their key priorities.”
Pace of improvement at Bradford is not swift enough
The interim strategic director at Bradford has brought much-needed skills and experience to the local authority which has assisted in improving services since the last inspection, Ofsted has said.
Inspectors saw some positive improvements in assessment quality and in the immediate response to child protection concerns, but also several areas in which insufficient progress has been made.
“Senior managers are fully aware of the practice deficits. While they have taken some positive actions, the pace of improvement in key areas is not swift enough. This is resulting in delays in children in need and children in need of protection having their needs identified and addressed,” said the report.
Decline in effectiveness at Stockton-on-Tees
There has been a decline in the overall effectiveness of children’s social care services in Stockton-on-Tees since the last inspection in 2016, Ofsted has warned.
While some services are strong, there has been insufficient management oversight and grip across the full range of services, and this is leading to unnecessary delay for some children in their assessed needs being met.
“Managers have concentrated heavily on improvements, including an updated electronic recording system, the early help offer and services to children on the edges of care.
However, there has been a decline in practice in some areas. For example, managers have not identified and addressed the extent of drift and delay in pre-proceedings work, or delays for children becoming looked after when they are living with their family and friends by arrangement with the local authority. Unqualified workers are holding children’s cases and making social work decisions,” said the report.
Barnet turns around services from inadequate to good
Services for children in Barnet are good, and much improved from the services that were found to be inadequate in 2017, according to Ofsted.
Leaders and managers have made purposeful progress, at pace, to establish a child-focused service that is delivering good outcomes, the inspection report said. The executive director and his team, together with strong corporate support, have ensured a focus on continuous improvement. This is underpinned by a clear oversight of practice and comprehensive knowledge of the service.
“Strong partnerships have led to an effective and well-integrated early help service. Children who need help and protection now receive help and support that is timely and of good quality. Assessments and plans show careful consideration of the views of children and their families,” said the report.
Surrey transforms front door services
An “ambitious service remodelling” including a total reconfiguration of the ‘front door’, has been introduced at Surrey,Ofsted has said.
New arrangements had been fully operational for only five weeks at the time of the monitoring visit following the the implementation of a new practice model, called ‘family resilience’, underpinning a widescale planned redesign and restructure of children’s services.
“Senior leaders and managers had consulted widely and carefully on the reconfiguration of the ‘front door’, including with other local authorities, to design a model fitting the context of Surrey with the objective of achieving enduring change,” said the report. “A fundamental aim of the remodelling has already been achieved, with a significant reduction in the previously high volume of contacts and referrals, and in the number of child protection investigations, child in need assessments and child protection plans.”
As a result, social workers’ caseloads across the service have substantially reduced to an average of 15 each.