A summary of the Ofsted reports of children's services published during February.
Insufficient progress in Hull, Ofsted finds
Kingston upon Hull is making insufficient progress in improving services for children in care that were judged to be requires improvement at the last inspection, Ofsted has said.
The progress and experiences of children in care have significantly declined and many children receive poor responses to their needs. Some children in care were found to be at risk of harm during this visit, which was the second monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in May 2019.
“Services for children in care have deteriorated since the last inspection. Leaders and managers have failed to appreciate the scale of the weaknesses and the resultant impact on children. Shortfalls identified at the time of the inspection have not been properly rectified,” the report said.
Progress at Hounslow hampered by challenges recruiting social workers
Changes in senior leaders, rising demand and challenges in recruiting social workers have hampered work to address the areas for improvement identified at the last inspection of Hounslow, Ofsted has said.
Senior leaders have put in place a range of strategies, including increasing the proportion of permanent social workers and reducing the reliance on temporary staff but many of these changes are too recent to have had a tangible impact.
“More consistent work with children at risk of significant harm is helping to keep children protected, and social workers are child-centred in their practice, but, overall, inspectors found that ‘front door’ services are not always timely or of a consistently good quality, particularly for children in need,” said the report.
Highly effective service for vulnerable adolescents in Hillingdon
Vulnerable adolescents in Hillingdon receive a highly effective service, a focused visit of the authority by Ofsted has found.
An established whole-system approach ensures that, from the first point of contact, risks are quickly identified. This leads to decisive actions, plans and interventions to reduce risks and improve the circumstances of children and young people.
“Leaders give due priority to resources and offer high-quality support to workers who are skilled and committed. This enables them to adopt an innovative approach in their work, based on developing trusting relationships, and increasingly protects and supports young people with very complex needs who may present as high risk,” said the report following the visit which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for protecting vulnerable adolescents.
Ofsted rates Greenwich as ‘good’
The good quality of work with children and their families in receipt of services at Greenwich has been sustained and improved, Ofsted has said.
Senior managers and leaders continue to demonstrate strong drive and ambition for children and they have an accurate and realistic understanding of the strengths and areas for development. They use this knowledge effectively to continually improve services. Political leaders have invested well to ensure that children’s needs are prioritised.
“Children who need help and protection receive a service that is timely and of good quality. Assessments and plans show careful consideration of the views of children and their families. Multi-agency working is well developed and contributes to children making good progress,” said the report.
Ofsted rated Greenwich ‘good’ for overall effectiveness.
Variable quality of practice at Torbay
The senior leadership team has been strengthened at Torbay since the last monitoring inspection visit, Ofsted has said.
The appointment of additional interim senior staff and a decision to recruit a dedicated Torbay DCS as well as an independent commissioner are intended to drive the essential changes more quickly to protect and help children, said the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate for the second time in June 2018.
“Newly appointed interim senior leaders are very clear about the huge amount of further work that is required to secure minimum practice standards for all vulnerable children across the spectrum of services, from the ‘front door’ to care leavers. They are beginning to lay the foundations on which to build sustained change by setting out a clear and ambitious vision while simultaneously addressing immediate areas of concern. There is considerable political support, including financial investment to underpin wholescale change,” said the report.
Pace of improvement at Knowlsey is slow
The pace of improvement at Knowsley has been slow and has not had a significant impact on the overall quality of practice, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit took place in October 2018, which inspected the quality of work in the multi-agency front door, and which found progress ‘has been sustained and built on’. While the local authority has continued with developments since that visit, the pace has been slow.
As a result, Ofsted found “the quality of work with children in need and children subject to child protection planning seen during this visit was very similar to that reported on during the inspection in 2017”.
“For the majority of children, assessments are of good quality and lead to intervention that helps them. However, there continue to be some children whose needs are not well understood and for whom care planning is not effective and does not lead to timely improvement of their circumstances,” the report said.
Workloads increase at Wigan
Workloads in social work teams at Wigan have significantly increased as a result of a strategic review of thresholds, Ofsted has noted.
The local authority did not plan ahead effectively to meet these demands and this resulted in high levels of unallocated cases over the course of three months.
Extra resources have now been put in place in response to this increased demand and a wider recruitment strategy is in place with agreed funding. While this response has enabled the local authority to allocate all current work, significant issues remain in terms of the consistent application of thresholds and timely allocation of children’s cases, a focused visit of children’s services found.
“Weaknesses are also evident in the responses to children, in terms of the quality of work in assessments of need, partnership-working with the police and timely decision-making in relation to child protection enquiries. This means that children and families are not receiving a timely or consistently good quality of service. For many children, outcomes are delayed, and some children remain at risk or in situations of harm for longer than they should,” said the report.
Luton rated inadequate
Some services for children at Luton have declined since the last inspection and Ofsted has now rated it as inadequate.
“Widespread and serious” weaknesses mean that too many children in need and in need of protection do not receive the help they need at the right time. Limited management capacity, exacerbated by changes in senior leadership and increased demand, has contributed to the decline.
“A clear focus on transformational change at a strategic partnership level and recent activity to strengthen practice have put in place building blocks for improvement. In some service areas, such as those for children in care and early help, greater stability is helping the authority achieve a more positive impact on the quality of frontline practice,” said the report.