Ofsted reports of children's services published in October.
Joint working in Wirral criticised by Ofsted
Joint working in Wirral between children’s services, health and police has been criticised by Ofsted.
In the seventh monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in September 2016, inspectors said the local authority is making progress in improving social work support in some areas of services for children in need of help and protection.
“However, there are some areas of joint working with health and police services that are poor, and this is a risk to children. The local authority is aware and is working with its statutory partners to resolve these deficiencies,” said the report.
Some progress made at Sandwell says Ofsted
Sandwell Children’s Trust is making some progress in improving services for children involved in the Public Law Outline and pre-proceedings work, but overall some deficits in services remain, Ofsted has said.
Senior managers in the Trust and the local authority are acutely aware of the scale of change still required to improve services for children and families in Sandwell.
“Progress against the improvement plan has been maintained and the newly appointed Director of Children’s Services has started the much-needed work to develop partnership working in the borough,” said the report.
Slow progress in MASH arrangements in Lewisham
Progress to improve multi-agency arrangements in Lewisham since the previous Ofsted inspection in 2015 has been slow, Ofsted has said in a report.
A focused visit to Lewisham local authority children’s services in September which focused on the ‘front door’ arrangements for the service that considers contacts and referrals, including decision-making within the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) said athere had been a recently completed a review of children’s social care services, which was commissioned by the chief executive following his appointment in May 2018.
“An independent in-depth diagnostic review of the functioning and effectiveness of MASH arrangements was undertaken and concluded that progress to improve multi-agency arrangements since the previous inspection in 2015 has been slow,” said the report.
“Staff and managers do not have access to effective and reliable systems to record work. This results in limited reports on key areas of performance,” it added.
Inconsistency in practice at Wolverhampton
There is inconsistency in social work practice within locality teams in Wolverhampton children’s services, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit to the City of Wolverhampton council children’s services in September explained that children in need and those on child protection plans are allocated a social worker in one of eight locality team hubs.
“Inconsistency of practice both within and between locality teams means that while some children and families receive good social work intervention, too many children’s plans are characterised by insufficient purpose and progress in meeting needs,” said the report.
Ofsted notes significant changes at Thurrock
There have been significant changes within children’s services at all levels in Thurrock, Ofsted has identified.
The Ofsted single inspection in 2016 found that services to children in Thurrock required improvement to be good.
However, since then the council has re-established a permanent children’s services senior leadership team and has restructured the services. Leaders have increased social work capacity and introduced a strength-based model of practice, supported by staff training.
“During this visit, inspectors identified some strengths and areas where practice is not strong enough. Senior leaders are aware of these strengths and weaknesses, and their development plan indicates that they have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to improve services,” said the report.
Children removed too early from child protection plans in Surrey
Too many children continue to be removed from child protection plans too early in Surrey children’s services, Ofsted has warned.
In the first monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in May 2018, the inspectorate found that too many children continue to be removed from child protection plans before there is substantial evidence that the risks they are facing have reduced or their circumstances have improved.
“This results in many children and families being placed on a plan for subsequent episodes. Some very young children have been the subject of repeated child protection and child in need plans. This trend of cyclical ‘start again’ social work is compounded by a complex service structure, requiring numerous handover points and changes of social worker as children travel through the statutory social work system,” said the report.
Effective support for care leavers in Hammersmith and Fulham
Care leavers in Hammersmith and Fulham receive effective support that helps many of them to achieve good outcomes, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit to Hammersmith and Fulham children’s services which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for care leavers found senior managers continue to be clearly focused on sustaining and improving outcomes for care leavers and are aware of the areas where improvement is needed.
“Highly skilled workers are persistent in engaging effectively with care leavers,” said the report. “All care leavers, apart from those in prison custody, are in suitable accommodation, and the use of ‘staying put’ arrangements when they reach 18 years old is increasing.”
East Riding boosts initial response to children further
Senior managers at East Riding of Yorkshire has further developed the service’s initial response to children, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit of the authority’s which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for the ‘front door’, the Early Help and Safeguarding Hub (EHaSH)and the quality of assessments and interventions for children in need of help and protection found the authority had furthered developed services since December 2016, when the local authority was judged good overall.
“Recent developments include: increasing social work capacity in the EHaSH; establishing early help panels; holding threshold meetings with key partners, and integrating the out of hours service with the front door,” said the report. “These developments are promoting an effective multi-agency response to children at the earliest opportunity and are a service strength.”
Devon County Council makes well-targeted progress
Devon County Council has recently made purposeful and well-targeted progress in improving services for its care leavers, an Ofsted report has revealed.
A focused visit of the authority’s children’s services which focused predominantly on services for care leavers found corporate parenting is now a key strength in Devon. Arrangements to ensure that care leavers access education, employment and training have been strengthened through the appointment and work of the virtual headteacher.
“Senior leaders have good awareness of the key strengths and weaknesses in the service. Improvement measures, implemented and monitored across the service, are now contributing to better outcomes for care leavers in most aspects of their lives,” said the report.
Manchester has good understanding of strengths and weaknesses in practice
Senior leaders at Manchester City Council children’s services have a good understanding of service strengths and of areas where the quality and impact of practice are not yet sufficient, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit to Manchester local authority children’s services which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for achieving permanence, in accordance with the inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) framework, said its self-evaluation in April 2018 recognises that it is still on an improvement journey to be good.
“Since their last inspection, the local authority has made improvements to the timeliness of statutory requirements, such as reviews, visits to children and completion of personal educational plans,” said the report. “Further work is needed to address inconsistencies in the quality of chronologies, assessments, effective planning, timeliness of permanence decisions, contingency planning and management oversight and direction.”
Some progress in permanency planning in Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wrekin Council children’s services have been able to demonstrate some progress in the area of permanency planning for children looked after since the last inspection, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for permanence and permanency planning for children looked after by the local authority, found the authority has responded appropriately to the findings of the last inspection, with a focus on strengthening their permanency planning processes.
“This focus has included the creation of an effective permanency panel to monitor and review plans for children,” said the report. “The panel has helped to ensure that almost all children looked after now have a permanency plan by their second review.”
Ofsted rates Portsmouth ‘good’
Services for children in Portsmouth have improved since the last Ofsted inspection and have been rated as ‘good’ by the inspectorate.
Despite increasing demand, leaders have made good progress in establishing a resilient and sustainable service, said inspectors.
“The senior leadership team articulate a clear, shared vision and set of values,” said the report. “They are ambitious and have an accurate and realistic understanding of the strengths and areas for development of the service. They use this knowledge well to actively improve services.”
Walsall improves outcomes for care leavers
Walsall children’s services has made progress in all areas with recommendations from the last Ofsted inspection that relate to care leavers.
A focused visit from Ofsted looking at the local authority’s arrangements for care leavers, including the preparation of relevant children in care for the transition to adulthood, found the local authority has good awareness of the key strengths and areas for improvement within the service.
“There is a growing corporate sense of responsibility for care leavers. This, in conjunction with the energy and vision created by the new executive director of children’s services and her senior team, is resulting in improving outcomes for care leavers,” said the report.
Diane Wills is Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, responsible for quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
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