A summary of the Ofsted reports of children's services published during November.
Norfolk transforms ‘front door’ arrangements
The ‘front door’ of Norfolk children’s services has been completely transformed since the last Ofsted inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers in November 2017.
A focused visit of Norfolk children’s services found that thresholds have been revised and re-launched, and a new operating model has been introduced. The children’s advice and duty service (CADS) has significantly improved the way in which information is shared, analysed and recorded at the first point of contact.
“With appropriate checks and balances, and effective leadership and management oversight, staff in the CADS work well together to identify the kind of help and protection that children and families need. The quality of decision-making is consistently strong. Throughput is timely,” said the report.
Senior managers strengthen foundations at Wakefield
Senior managers at Wakefield have continued to work tirelessly on building and strengthening the foundations to improve services for children in need of help and protection.
Senior managers have focused on developing the right service structures, and increasing staffing, in order to enable social workers to focus on core practice, the third monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate found.
As a result, significantly improved recording is supporting stronger performance monitoring and quality assurance. Improved management oversight at all levels is helping to sustain better performance in critical areas, added Ofsted.
“Positively, inspectors identified some areas of improving core social work practice, including some assessments, and routine multi-agency planning, which is ensuring that some children have their needs well met. The co-located children vulnerable to exploitation team is having a positive impact on completing return home interviews and identifying risk,” said the report which reviewed the progress being made for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan.
Leicestershire makes progress
Progress has been made in many areas of children’s services in Leicestershire since the last inspection in 2016, when all judgements were graded as ‘requires improvement to be good’, Ofsted has said.
The report following the inspection of children’s services at Leicestershire said that while services for children in care are now judged to be good, those for children needing help and protection still require improvement to be good.
Overall, children are not experiencing good practice consistently enough across all services, and the extent and impact of the remaining areas for improvement are substantial. For these reasons, overall effectiveness requires improvement to be good.
“Commitment and investment by political and corporate leaders, together with effective work by staff and senior managers, have meant that responses to the needs of children and families have improved in many areas. Most children in care are settled in good homes with their needs well met, and, for that reason, they make good progress. Most care leavers live in suitable accommodation, and the majority are participating in education, training or employment. There is a more timely and effective response when children first need help and protection, including out of hours and for children at risk of sexual exploitation and for children who go missing, as well as those experiencing the impact of domestic abuse. The quality of assessments has improved, and they now more clearly identify children’s needs,” the report said.
Decline in quality of children’s services at St Helen’s
There has been a decline in the quality of services for children in St Helen’s since the last inspection in 2014, Ofsted has warned.
A focused visit by Ofsted in July 2018 identified areas for priority action because children were placed at risk, there was a lack of understanding in relation to thresholds and there was too much drift and delay, including for children subject to pre-proceedings.
“The local authority promptly set up an independently chaired children’s improvement board in September 2018, and a further focused visit in November 2018 identified some progress at the front door. However, there are widespread and serious failures in the quality of services for children in care due to significant drift and delay in permanence planning,” said the report. “Management oversight in this area of work is ineffective, and staff have limited awareness of the need for early planning for permanence. This is compounded by a lack of tools and systems to help the local authority understand the extent of the issue and intervene to remedy the situation at the earliest opportunity.”
Cornwall children’s services rated as outstanding
Children in Cornwall benefit from good and outstanding services, Ofsted has said following an inspection of children’s services.
The long-standing and committed senior leadership team has decisively and persistently focused on improving services for children. Services for children in need of help and protection have improved further and are now good. Children in care and care leavers benefit from high-quality support from social workers who are committed to and ambitious about improving their outcomes and life chances, the inspection said.
“Political and corporate leaders demonstrate strong commitment to children’s services, and have supported whole-council investment. Combined with the leadership team’s unwavering focus on continuous improvement, this has resulted in strengthened services. Creative and innovative services have continued to flourish through Gweres tus Yowynk, the dedicated multi-agency edge of care service. A significantly improved focus on participation with children in care ensures that children’s voices are heard and acted on. Having psychologists based in teams ensures that social workers and foster carers have access to expertise, which helps planning,” said the report.