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Ofsted reports in November

A round up of the Ofsted reports of children's services published during November.

Strong corporate leadership identified in Harrow

There is strong corporate leadership in Harrow to improve outcomes for children and their families who need help or protection, Ofsted has said.

Since the previous inspection of children’s services in 2017, there has been a sustained commitment to improving the quality of social work practice, a focused visit of the authority found.

“Senior leaders know the service well, as reflected in the recent self-evaluation. A comprehensive suite of performance data informs this knowledge,” said the report.

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Ofsted notes clear vision at Hampshire

Senior leaders have a clear vision for continually improving services for vulnerable children in Hampshire, said Ofsted.

The senior leadership team’s ambitious plans for building capacity through service transformation are evidence based and are underpinned by considerable financial investment by political leaders, a focused visit of Hampshire found.

“The senior leadership team has an accurate view of the quality of services for children in need of protection. They had already identified, prior to the focused visit, most of the areas for development identified by inspectors,” said the report, which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children subject to a child protection plan.

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Improved services for children in Leicestershire

A permanent leadership team has driven steady and realistic improvements in the first response service at Leicestershire children’s services, Ofsted has said.

Leicestershire children’s services were last inspected by Ofsted in 2016, when the overall effectiveness of the service was judged to require improvement to be good.

However, with strong political support, the leadership team has “increased capacity, reduced caseloads and created a learning environment which has been successful in stabilising the workforce, resulting in children and families receiving improved services,” said the report.

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Deterioration of services at Wokingham

There has been a “marked deterioration” in the quality, timeliness and delivery of services to children at Wokingham, Ofsted has said.

Since the last inspection in 2017, there has been increased caseloads in children’s social care and early help, linked to a rise in demand and instability across the workforce.

“The significant pressures within the MASH and assessment service were not identified or addressed early enough to prevent the decline,” said the report, acknowledging that in recent months, leaders have taken more assertive steps to stabilise the service.

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Services at Northamptonshire have deteriorated, says Ofsted

Arrangements for managing contacts and referrals in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and thresholds for children in need of help and protection in Northamptonshire have deteriorated, according to Ofsted.

Against a backdrop of recent significant financial uncertainty and changes in leadership at corporate and managerial levels, services considered during the focused visit have significantly declined in the past two years since the single inspection in 2016, the report said.

“This uncertainty has contributed to significant shortfalls in social work capacity across the service, resulting in unmanageable caseloads and high volumes of unallocated and unassessed work. Senior leaders are aware of these serious weaknesses and have taken remedial action to respond,” said the report.

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Hounslow has improved children’s services

Senior leaders at the London Borough of Hounslow have worked effectively to improve children’s services since the last Ofsted inspection in 2014, the inspectorate has said.

Supported by strong corporate and cross-party political support, the London Borough has a thoughtful and caring approach to working with children and their families is threaded through services for children in Hounslow, and staff morale is high.

“Senior leaders know their services well. They have combined learning from previous inspections and peer reviews with their own monitoring arrangements to ensure that children receive timely and appropriate help to meet their individual needs,” said the report. “Consequently, services at the ‘front door’ have improved and children in care receive a good service.”

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Salford rated ‘good’ across board by Ofsted

The quality and impact of social work practice with children has been maintained and, in some areas, improved in Salford, Ofsted has reported.

Since the last inspection, children have continued to receive focused, timely and proportionate support in response to their needs and level of risk. Multi-agency arrangements for children are effective and these lead to a good range of interventions that keep children safe.

“There is a strong partnership commitment at the ‘front door’, where escalating concerns about children are responded to promptly. Assessments of need are of good quality and new multi-agency initiatives help support the most vulnerable children and families, including those at risk of exploitation,” said the report.

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South Gloucestershire know their care leavers increasingly well

Senior leaders at South Gloucestershire know their care leavers’ service increasingly well, Ofsted has said.

In the fifth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in February 2017, Ofsted said a clearer focus by senior leaders on raising practice standards through more rigorous quality assurance of casework and strategic planning is having a greater impact on improving some key aspects of care leavers’experiences.

“These include keeping in touch with the overwhelming majority of care leavers, access to good accommodation for care leavers, and a well-established employment, education and training offer,” said the report which focused on services for care leavers. “Care leavers have been instrumental in developing policies to raise practice standards and in shaping services, such as a ‘drop in’ centre that is better attended and provides care leavers with additional practical and emotional support.”

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Children in care in Ealing receive exceptional care, says Ofsted

Senior managers and political leaders at Ealing children’s services have continued to transform services since the single inspection in 2016, when services were judged to be good, Ofsted has said.

Each child in care in Ealing is surrounded by a team of professionals who work together closely to provide exceptional care and support, a focused visit to the London Borough found.

“There is a tangible determination from those who are involved with children in care to provide a nurturing environment that meets children’s and carers’ emotional needs,” said the report. “Staff say that: they feel valued by their leaders and managers; caseloads are manageable; and the retention of social workers, particularly in the connect teams, is improving.”

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Strong service for care leavers at City of London authority

Care leavers in the City of London benefit from a strong service that ensures that they are very well supported, an Ofsted report has found.

A focused visit to City of London local authority children’s services which focused on the authority’s arrangements for care leavers found they receive effective help which enables most to achieve good outcomes.

“There is a determined and appropriately ambitious political and corporate focus to sustain and improve outcomes for care leavers,” said the report. “The service knows itself well and is aware of the areas in which further improvement is required.”

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Skilled motivated workforce in Barnsley

Children in Barnsley are at the heart of strategic thinking, decision-making, and operational practice, which leads to good-quality services from a skilled and motivated workforce, Ofsted has said.

Services for children in Barnsley are good and there has been steady improvement at successive inspections since 2012, the inspection of children’s social care services found.

“The resolute focus on improving outcomes for children is shared across the partnership and is underpinned by political commitment and financial investment and a self-evaluation that shows that leaders know their services well,” said the report.

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Hertfordshire’s senior leaders are “ambitious” for children

Senior leaders in Hertfordshire are “restlessly ambitious” for the children, young people and families who depend on them for help and protection, care and support, according to Ofsted.

An inspection of children’s services in Hertfordshire said children’s social care services continue to be well led, well managed and well run.

“Recommendations made at the time of the last inspection have been successfully addressed. With adult specialist workers embedded in family safeguarding teams, the local authority’s approach to ‘Think Family’ is mature and well developed. The help and protection that most children receive has improved since the last inspection and is now good,” said the report.

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Strong leadership leads improvements at Knowsley

Improvements have been seen at Knowsley children’s services thanks to strong, committed senior leadership and good corporate support, Ofsted has said.

Knowsley’s children’s services were last inspected by Ofsted in 2017, when the overall effectiveness of services was judged to require improvement to be good. However, progress seen at that inspection has been sustained and built on, the focused visit of the local authority found.

“Inspectors found effective social work practice within the MASH, which also benefits from co-location of a wide range of partner agencies,” said the report. “Information-sharing is prompt and application of thresholds in the MASH is consistent and appropriate.”

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Strengthened focus on permanence planning at Cheshire East

Senior leaders at Cheshire East Council have ensured that children increasingly benefit from a strengthened focus on permanence planning at both strategic and operational levels, Ofsted has said.

Cheshire East local authority children’s services were last inspected by Ofsted in July 2015, when the local authority was judged as requiring improvement to be good, with the adoption service judged to be good.

“The improvements to permanence planning for children have been supported by an effective Department for Education-funded ‘Partners in Practice’ collaboration. This demonstrates the senior leaders’understanding of the issues in practice and their commitment to prioritising permanence for the children in their care,” said the report following a focused inspection which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for permanency planning and achieving permanence.

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Ofsted looks at Sheffield’s improvement work

Ofsted inspectors saw some effective work in supporting children on the edge of care at Sheffield underpinned by increased staffing and strengthened formal decision-making processes.

Sheffield has been working to improve its children’s services since an internal review in the latter part of 2017 identified inconsistent service-wide social work practice and management oversight that was resulting in ineffective support to improve children’s lives.

An improvement plan was implemented with an initial focus on the ‘front door’. These issues were shared with Ofsted in February 2018 at the first annual engagement meeting held under the ILACS framework. A focused visit in April 2018 identified that responses to immediate safeguarding issues and to requests for support to families were timely and thorough.

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Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

More court days for family cases this year despite restrictions

26/11/2020

There have been more court sitting days taking place on family cases this year than in any previous year, despite the lockdown, the president of the family courts division has said.

In his ‘View from the Chambers,’ Andrew McFarlane said this level of activity is necessary as it is not possible to conduct as many cases [...]

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Half of Youth Offending Services require improvement

25/11/2020

Improvements are required in more than half of the Youth Offending Services inspected this year, according to the HM Inspectorate of Probation.

Of the 16 Youth Offending Services inspected, eight required improvement while one, Cardiff, was rated inadequate.

Chief Inspector Justin Russell said: “It is disappointing that the overall quality of the youth offending services we have [...]

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Highest number of children’s homes registered could be in response to COVID

25/11/2020

The highest number of children’s homes were registered by Ofsted between April and August, potentially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ofsted registered 176 new children’s homes between 1 April and 31 August, the highest number recorded in that period. This follows a continued increase in registrations year on year since at least 2015 and a [...]

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