A round-up of the Ofsted inspections of children’s services published during May.
Improvement plan at Croydon ‘progressing well’
Senior leaders in Croydon are progressing well in implementing their improvement plan, Ofsted has said.
In its second monitoring visit since Croydon was rated inadequate in July 2017, inspectors found that senior leaders and managers have quickly responded to issues identified in the first monitoring visit.
“The local authority has invested a significant amount of additional resources to improve the quality of children’s services,” the inspection report added.
The visit focused on services for vulnerable adolescents and inspectors found services were “highly variable” and too many children receive an inadequate service.
Stoke praised for efforts tackling CSE
Stoke-on-Trent’s children’s services have worked persistently to improve services for children at risk of sexual, criminal and gang exploitation, Ofsted has said.
Since the last Ofsted inspection in 2015, inspectors noted that senior leaders and elected members in Stoke-on-Trent, together with relevant partner agencies, have also worked hard to improve services for children where there are concerns about them going missing from home, care or education.
“This group of vulnerable children benefit from well-coordinated targeted services, at the right level, from a variety of skilled and knowledgeable practitioners based with different agencies,” said the focused report.
Early help offer improved at Wandsworth, says Ofsted
Wandsworth Council has demonstrated sustained drive and enthusiasm to ensure that services develop and that outcomes for children improve, Ofsted has stated.
Senior leaders have made purposeful and well-targeted progress in strengthening arrangements at the ‘front door’, as well as in early help services. Pathways for referrals and early help have been more clearly defined and children now receive a swifter response to their needs. Decision-making for children is becoming increasingly timely and consistent.
However, there are several areas identified during this and previous monitoring visits that continue to need further improvement in order to achieve consistently better practice across the service, the inspectorate added.
Strong and robust’ services for vulnerable adolescents in Islington
The service provision for vulnerable adolescents in Islington is “strong and robust”, Ofsted has stated in its latest report.
A focused visit of the London Borough of Islington found that “there is a determined focus to improve outcomes for these young people across the council”.
“Senior political leaders, elected members and officers demonstrate a determination to improving services for vulnerable adolescents in Islington,” said the report. “This can be seen in the obvious investment in services, including the exploitation and missing team and the integrated gangs team.
Outcomes for children are improving in Tameside, say inspectors
The current pace of change at Tameside alongside increased engagement from partner agencies is improving outcome for children, Ofsted has stated.
In the fifth monitoring visit since the council was rated inadequate in December 2016, inspectors found that early help is a service priority for the council.
“The appointment of a dedicated lead for early help has increased capacity,” said the report. “This, coupled with the strategic direction and momentum provided by the new DCS and senior management team, is driving positive progress against the multi-agency early help delivery plan.”
The report highlights that the authority’s self-assessment accurately acknowledges that, during 2017, insufficient progress was made to develop Tameside local authority’s early help services and how they interface with children’s social care.
Experienced teams deliver high quality social work in Lincolnshire
Leaders in Lincolnshire are ambitious for children in care and prioritise resources to support social work to flourish, Ofsted has said.
Inspectors highlighted that this results in stable and experienced teams who deliver high-quality social work which improves outcomes for children in Lincolnshire.
“Strong use of children’s networks of family and friends results in a high proportion of children appropriately leaving care through special guardianship,” said the report.
Ofsted rates Surrey as inadequate
Children’s services in Surrey have been rated as inadequate by Ofsted.
While adoption performance was rated as good, children in need of being looked after and the experience of care leavers were rated as requiring improvement. However, children in need of protection and leadership, management and governance were rated as inadequate in Ofsted’s re-inspection of Surrey County Council.
Ofsted criticises senior leaders and elected members in Surrey as being “far too slow to accept and act on the findings and recommendations of the 2014 inspection” and to respond with the required urgency of findings that subsequent monitoring visits have highlighted.
“Too many of the most vulnerable children in the county are being left exposed to continuing harm for long periods of time before decisive protective actions are taken,” said the report.
Managers have improved morale at Northamptonshire
Staff feel supported by managers, who have improved staff morale at Northamptonshire, Ofsted has said.
Senior leaders are working hard to change the culture of social work in Northamptonshire and to create a positive environment for staff to continue to improve their practice, a focused visit to the authority found, adding that there is now an environment of “high challenge and high support”.
“Political support for children’s services continues to be strong, and the whole-system transformation plan that is underway is clearly focused on addressing capacity issues and supporting the retention of social workers,” said the report.
However, while no children were found to be at immediate risk of harm, the quality of early assessment and planning remains too variable, resulting in children and families too often experiencing delay in receiving the right support. There is a clear service improvement plan underway, and encouraging progress has been made.
Front door contact at Sheffield praised by Ofsted
The front-door contact, referral and assessment arrangements in Sheffield work well to keep children safe, Ofsted has found in an inspection of the authority.
Senior managers have worked hard to implement and develop the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub (SSH) over the last year, with timely and effective links to the area field work teams ensuring that children are safeguarded.
“Multi-agency partners are effectively engaged and contribute positively to the developments and the quality of the work,” said the report. “With safe and robust arrangements in place, the quality and consistency of practice continue to develop.”
Inspectors find ‘significant weaknesses’ in responses to children at Swindon
The quality of decision-making when children are first referred for help or protection has declined at Swindon children’s services since the last inspection in 2014, Ofsted has found.
In a focused visit of the local authority’s arrangements at the first point of contact for children who need help and protection, inspectors found significant weaknesses in the responses that children receive.
“Social workers in the MASH do not always identify risk, and inspectors found some children at risk of harm. Many decisions made by social workers and managers are not sufficiently swift and do not take account of all relevant information,” said the report. “In some cases seen by inspectors, opportunities to intervene had been missed historically, and recently.”
Swindon’s children’s services were last inspected by Ofsted in 2014, when the overall effectiveness of services was judged to require improvement to be good.
Darlington requires improvement to be good
Darlington children’s services requires improvement to be good, Ofsted has said.
While adoption and experiences of care leavers were rated as ‘good,’ Ofsted deemed that leadership, management and governance, children who need help and protection and looked after children and requiring permanence required improvement to be good.
However, the Ofsted report said: “It has been a considerable achievement for the local authority to have improved the services that were judged to be inadequate at the previous inspection in 2015 while sustaining the quality of those services judged to be good.”
Appropriate pace of change at Barnet
There is an appropriate pace of change at Barnet, a monitoring visit of the authority by Ofsted has found.
Inspectors noted that the local authority is consolidating the recent improvements to services for children and young people identified during the previous monitoring visits. Senior leaders and managers are maintaining their focus and there is an appropriate pace of change in continuing to develop and embed improved quality social work practice across the service.
“Inspectors found some improving progress in the quality of social work practice,” said the report. “Immediate risks for almost all children are adequately addressed. Less case work was of an inadequate standard than on previous monitoring visits, and most children were being appropriately safeguarded.”
However, it warned: “Practice remains inconsistent and some case work remains inadequate.”
Reduced resources impacts negatively on social work in Oxfordshire
A reduction in resources in Oxfordshire children’s services combined with increased demand for services has resulted in a decline in the quality of some services, Ofsted has found.
Oxfordshire children’s services was previously graded as good across the board in Ofsted’s last inspection in 2014. Yet efficiency savings resulting in a reduction in resources and “a significant rise in demand for services” in 2015-16 has impacted negatively on the quality of some services, particularly for children in need of help and protection.
“Senior leaders have taken rigorous action to respond to this deterioration. Significant additional financial investment, combined with a large-scale restructure in 2017, has led to an improved early help service, increased capacity in frontline staffing and an enhanced service for children in care. Consequently, at this inspection the overall effectiveness of children’s services is judged to be good,” said the report.