A summary of Ofsted reports published in the last month.
Ofsted praises improvement at Cafcass against backdrop of rising demand
Cafcass has been judged by Ofsted as being outstanding having been on an improvement journey since it was rated inadequate in 2009.
Ofsted praised the organisation for its continuous improvement against a backdrop of rising demand. There were 14,599 care applications made in 2016-17 compared to 10,620 in 2013-14. Since Cafcass’ last Ofsted inspection in 2014, when the organisation was rated ‘Good’, demand has increased significantly.
The Ofsted inspection said exceptional, aspirational corporate and operational leaders work relentlessly to ensure that children and their families benefit from good or outstanding services. Leaders have worked diligently to develop and support a culture of continuous learning and improvement, it added.
Ofsted: Birmingham is ‘maintaining progress’
Birmingham children’s services is “maintaining progress” in services for looked after children, Ofsted has found.
In the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in November 2016, inspectors said the local authority is maintaining progress seen at the last full inspection. Additional progress and improvement was seen in specific areas such as foster to adopt and the effectiveness of challenge and escalation made by Independent Reviewing Officers.
“Children are brought into the care of the local authority appropriately, and where required the authority is taking prompt action through the courts to secure the care of children,” said the report.
Waltham Forest carried out ‘significant work’ to develop MASH
There has been significant work to further develop the MASH at Waltham Forest children’s services, Ofsted has stated.
There has been the co-location of more partner agencies and a recent relaunch of the revised threshold guidance which has, in turn, resulted in improved, timely multi-agency responses to contacts and referrals.
“Regular surveys of partner agencies show improved understanding and better relationships with children’s social care, and this is enabling better support and protection of children,” said the report.
Strong corporate leadership at Barking and Dagenham
There is strong corporate leadership at Barking and Dagenham children’s services which enables the authority to improve services to meet the diverse needs of children and their families.
A focussed report by Ofsted found that this scrutiny enables better quality social work practice to embed. In fact, the self-evaluation carried out by senior leaders shows that they know the service well.
“Inspectors found evidence of sound social work practice in the MASH and assessment service, both of which have benefited from innovative actions to secure a more stable workforce. In the cases audited and in all other work considered, the local authority had acted appropriately to safeguard children and keep them safe,” said the report.
Early intervention services making progress at Bromley
The London Borough of Bromley is making good progress in improving early intervention help and support for children and families in the borough, Ofsted has said.
In its sixth monitoring visit since the borough’s children’s services was rated as inadequate in June 2016, Ofsted inspector found the provision of early intervention services in Bromley is an area of strength.
“The local authority has prioritised and improved the range and quality of family support. This is effective and well established,” said the report.
Cambridgeshire needs to address recruitment issues, says Ofsted
Cambridgeshire children’s services need to recruit experienced social workers to deal with the high caseloads in some areas, Ofsted has warned.
A focused visit of Cambridgeshire Council found that while corporate and political support is ensuring a continued focus on improving social work practice, the recruitment of suitably qualified and experienced social work staff needs to be more efficient to reduce “the unacceptably high caseloads in some areas”.
“Some teams are vulnerable to staff turnover, vacancies and absence. Inspectors saw the impact of this, with significantly high caseloads in some areas affecting the quality of social work practice and outcomes for children,” said the report. “In addition, visits to children in need are mostly carried out in accordance with minimum statutory requirements, rather than as identified by the individual needs of the children concerned.”
Wirral has made ‘effective efforts’ to address shortfalls
Wirral children’s services has made effective efforts to address some of the shortfalls identified in Ofsted’s single inspection framework inspection of September 2016 regarding help and protection services, the inspectorate has said.
The quality of assessments at the ‘Integrated Front Door’ system is good although further work is needed to ensure that there is a full contribution from partners and to improve the quality of assessments undertaken by the locality social work teams.
The IFD, a single point of contact for all referrals, has been developed and social work staff review all contacts, apply thresholds consistently and ensure that all children are swiftly diverted to the appropriate level of help. This includes those children who are suitable for early help services below the threshold of statutory intervention, Ofsted found in the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was rated as inadequate in September 2016.
Ofsted highlights ‘unacceptable’ screening visits at Oldham
“Unacceptable” screening visits are being carried out at Oldham children’s services, Ofsted has found.
The focused inspection of the authority which concentrated on the local authority’s arrangements for the front door identified that social workers are undertaking ‘screening visits’ to some children and their families prior to a referral decision, although the rationale for these visits is unclear.
“The local authority explained that these visits are an assessment. However, they are undertaken outside of the single assessment process and this means that families are being assessed without their knowledge or right to read, comment and have their views recorded, and this is unacceptable,” said the report.