Here is a round-up of the Ofsted reports of children's services published during August, with links to individual articles on each inspection and to the full report.
Early progress ‘from low base’ in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire children’s services is making some early progress in improving services for children and young people who are the subject of a child in need plan, Ofsted has said.
In the first monitoring visit of the children’s services department since it was judged to be inadequate in December 2017, inspectors said some progress had been made “from a very low base”.
“Senior leaders have a clear and well-informed understanding of the significant weaknesses in the quality of work with children in need,” said the report of the inspection which focused on children in need. “Plans to improve practice are credible and well devised. Senior managers are strongly committed to moving forward at a realistic pace, and are determined to achieve rapid and sustainable improvements in children’s circumstances and outcomes.”
Thresholds not consistently applied in Croydon
Some children in Croydon remain in neglectful circumstances for too long because thresholds are not applied consistently, Ofsted has warned.
In its third monitoring visit of Croydon since the authority was judged to be inadequate in September 2017, inspectors found that overall, progress in the area of child protection has been too slow and too many children do not receive a service that meets their needs.
“The pace of change since the inspection in September 2017 has been too slow. The newly appointed director of children’s services and senior managers are in the process of refreshing the improvement plan so that priority areas are tackled with increased vigour,” said the report, which concentrated on progress made in the area of help and protection.
Trafford is delivering against transformation plan
Trafford children’s services is currently delivering against a targeted transformation plan to implement a whole-system approach to permanence, including early permanence, said Ofsted.
Inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for achieving permanence and found that there have been recent political and senior management changes at Trafford. Internal expertise has been utilised well to provide stability, consistency and a continued focus to improve service delivery for children and their families.
“Leaders understand the strengths and weakness of their services and use this knowledge well to identify areas for development,” said the report.
Steady progress made at Kirklees
Kirklees children’s services has increased the pace of improvement which has resulted in some steady progress being made, Ofsted has said.
There is more work to do to improve and embed the quality and timeliness of the social work response to children and families, and to tackle drift and delay, the inspectorate warned in the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was judged as inadequate for services for children in need of help and protection and children looked after in October 2016.
“Since the last monitoring visit, the local authority has made steady progress, and firm foundations are now in place for securing improvements in service delivery,” said the report, which focused on the experiences of children in need of help and protection.
“There is an improving picture in relation to: management oversight through systematic case auditing and regular supervision; staff engagement and morale; the response to pre-birth concerns; workforce stability; and partnership working.”
“No children were seen where risk of immediate harm was unassessed and not responded to,” the report added.
Worcestershire makes satisfactory progress
Worcestershire children’s services are making satisfactory progress to improve services for its children and young people, Ofsted has said in a report.
Good progress is being made in the areas of assessment and quality assurance, the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was judged inadequate in November 2016 added. However, progress in other areas, such as planning for children, is more variable and requires further focused work.
During the course of this visit, inspectors reviewed the progress made in the area of children subject to child protection and child in need assessments and plans.
“The local authority’s senior leaders and elected members have a realistic understanding of progress,” said the report. “They are aware that much work remains to be done in some areas to ensure that children receive good services.”
Peterborough rated good by Ofsted
Peterborough children’s services have been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, having improved significantly since its 2015 inspection.
Areas for improvement highlighted in the joint targeted inspection in 2017 have been addressed.
Children’s lived experiences are at the centre of practice and, as a result, they benefit from good, timely decision-making.
The participation of, and direct work with, children and families are key strengths, Ofsted noted.
“A stable, effective senior leadership team has driven improvement at pace,” said the report. “Leaders have an accurate understanding of strengths and weaknesses and have created the conditions for social work practice to thrive.”
Ofsted hails North Yorkshire as outstanding
An Ofsted inspection of North Yorkshire County Council has rated the children’s services department as ‘outstanding’ where children and families receive a consistent, high-quality service.
There is outstanding practice within all teams, which has a demonstrably positive impact on effecting change for children and families, the report found.
“The leadership team is ambitious and forward thinking. Over a sustained period of time, it has built on an established philosophy of practice, which is clearly understood across the service and by partners,” said the report.
“The leadership team has a clear oversight of practice and knows the services well, which is reflected in an accurate self-assessment,” it added.
Children’s services at St Helen’s deteriorate
The quality of services for children in need, including those in need of protection, at St Helen’s has declined since the Ofsted single inspection in November 2014 found that services required improvement to be good.
Despite commitment and financial investment from political leaders, areas of significant weakness were identified that are placing children at risk of inadequate protection and significant harm, Ofsted said in a focused visit of the authority concentrating on the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and children subject to a child protection plan.
“The new director of people’s services, who has been in post since June 2018, is in the early stages of recognising what is required to improve services for the local authority’s most vulnerable children,” said the report. “The director has already revised the children’s plan and has instigated a full review of the many policies and procedures that govern the work undertaken by children’s social care.”
Ofsted identifies progress at Warwickshire
Some progress has been made in the delivery of social work services at Warwickshire since the last Ofsted inspection, the inspectorate has said.
There has been a new approach to working with children in need through a recognised model of working with families which is beginning to have an impact on outcomes and ensuring that families receive good-quality, targeted direct work.
A focus on reducing the numbers of agency staff, along with recruitment of a significant number of social workers, has been successful. However, this has not yet resulted in reducing social workers’ caseloads to the target of 15 per worker and caseloads are too high and remain in the mid-twenties. Agreement to recruit extra numbers of social workers to increase overall capacity has been successful, with a number of new social workers due to start in September.
“Pressure to manage overly high caseloads remains evident,” said the report. “Inappropriately allocating work to managers constrains capacity for effective managerial oversight and increases the risk of drift and delay in meeting children’s needs.”
Focused visit of Halton shows improvement since last visit
Children and families in Halton receive a timely and proportionate response to initial identified needs and concerns, Ofsted has concluded.
In a focused visit of the authority’s arrangements for contacts and referrals in the integrated contact and referral team (iCART) and thresholds for children in need and child protection, with a focus on children and families stepping down to early help, inspectors found the quality of work in responding effectively to contacts has improved since the last inspection in November 2014.
“The local authority response to children at risk of harm or in need of help was appropriate in all cases that were seen at this visit,” said the report. “However, partners do not always effectively capture the voice of the child when contacting the local authority.”
Newcastle managers ‘resolute’ in improving practice
Senior managers at Newcastle children’s services have embraced the learning from the last Ofsted inspection in May 2017, inspectors found in their latest focused visit.
The inspection, which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for the ‘front-door’, the Initial Response Service (IRS), which receives both single and multi-agency contacts and referrals, found managers to be ‘resolute’ in continuing to improve the quality of practice so that children get the right help at the right time.
“Senior managers know their services well through enhanced performance information and robust quality assurance of front-line practice. This is improving service responsiveness and ensures that services for children and families are maintained at a time when demand has increased sharply,” said the report.
Lancashire makes significant improvements and moves out of ‘inadequate’ rating
‘Significant improvements’ have been made at Lancashire children’s services, Ofsted has said.
Inspectors highlighted that leaders can now demonstrate that they know their services well and this insight has led to some significant improvements and children’s services are no longer inadequate.
“From a very slow start, the past six months in Lancashire have seen a much-needed injection of pace, with a renewed energy and focus,” said the report.
A blame culture in social work impacts on risk aversion in the social work profession, some respondents to The Case for Change have warned.
Publishing the Case for Change in June, chair of the independent review of children’s social care Josh MacAlister said: “This Case for Change sets out the urgent need for a new approach [...]
Schools were forced to step in to support vulnerable families during the COVID-19 pandemic for many issues that were previously dealt with by social workers, research has found.
Schools found themselves helping vulnerable families with problems such as mental health problems, domestic abuse and poverty during the pandemic as more families were turning to schools [...]
Children and young people at Oakhill Secure Training Centre are being held in their rooms for 23 hours a day, a joint inspection has found.
Children have spent approximately 19 hours per day on average locked in their rooms on average since mid-July 2021, the centre’s records show and on some days, this has increased [...]