A summary of the Ofsted reports of children's services published during January.
Solihull makes progress but services are still not good
Solihull MBC has made some progress in improving the quality of services for children and families since its inspection in 2016, Ofsted has said. However, services are not yet good and not all areas of concern identified at the last inspection have been addressed.
A strengthened front door multi-agency response and a reconfigured early help response are making a positive difference at an early stage for many families. Children who are at immediate risk are responded to quickly, and, in most cases, receive timely, effective interventions. Children who have a plan for adoption are adopted in a timely manner. Young people who are preparing to leave care or who have left care get good levels of support and guidance in preparation for their adult lives.
However, for some children, plans are not progressed quickly enough and, in a few cases, there is drift and delay. There is little challenge and reflection in the supervision of social workers, and this is a barrier to better practice.
“The local authority has not ensured that its quality assurance framework is sufficiently robust or that it provides an accurate view of practice quality. This means that it does not always know its weaknesses. Partnership working is not universally strong. Child protection strategy meetings are subject to delays, mainly due to a lack of police availability, and the local authority has yet to remedy this,” the report said.
Improvements made at Cheshire East since last inspection
Significant progress has been made in some areas of social work practice at Cheshire East council since the previous inspections. however, improvement is needed in other services to ensure that children receive a consistently good service, Ofsted has warned.
Since the single inspection framework (SIF) inspection in 2015, and the focused visit in October 2018, arrangements in the integrated front door have been strengthened, the scale and effectiveness of the early help services has improved, enabling more children and families to access timely and appropriate support, an ‘edge of care’ team works intensively with families and that children at risk of exploitation receive a robust service.
“While initial concerns are dealt with effectively and families receive a service at the right level of intervention, the subsequent interventions are not consistently good. Some vulnerable children’s situations are not improving quickly enough.
Management oversight and challenge are not fully embedded in all service areas, and the quality of social work practice is too inconsistent. There are avoidable delays in determining and implementing plans for some children, and not all vulnerabilities are fully recognised and addressed. Some children wait too long to enter care and experience a sense of permanence,” the report said.
Progress in Southampton has been too slow, says Ofsted
Progress in improving services for children in Southampton since the last inspection in 2014 has been uneven and too slow, Ofsted has said.
Some children benefit from skilled interventions and direct work that reduces risks to them and improves their daily lived experiences, but many do not. The overall quality of social work for children who are the subjects of statutory plans and who are looked after by the council is not consistently effective.
“Inspectors alerted managers to a small number of children who had not been adequately safeguarded. The frequency and regularity of management oversight and supervision of social workers has improved, but many front-line managers do not concentrate enough on the impact and progress of direct work with children in improving their safety and well-being. Some young people leaving care are inappropriately placed in bed and breakfast arrangements,” the report said.
Quality of social work practice at Dudley deteriorates
Senior leaders at Dudley acknowledge that the quality of social work practice has deteriorated since the last inspection, said Ofsted.
The new chief executive brought in an interim director of children services, who subsequently established and strengthened the senior leadership team within the service. The new leadership team is very new, and actions taken and associated plans have not yet had an impact on services, the focused visit found.
“As a result, there are significant vulnerabilities within the service, which mean that too many children do not have their needs assessed in a timely and effective way. Consequently, some children do not receive the right service to meet their needs when they need it, and they remain vulnerable for too long. Leaders accepted all of the feedback provided by inspectors during the course of this visit,” said the report.
Little progress made at Herefordshire
Hertfordshire has made little progress in improving the quality of practice for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan since the last inspection, Ofsted has said.
There remain areas of concern identified at the last inspection in relation to children in need and child protection services that have not been resolved, the focused visit where inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in need and children subject to a child protection plan found.
“Despite ongoing investment by senior leaders, children in need and child protection social work services remain challenged by vacancies as well as turnover of staff and ongoing difficulties in attracting experienced staff. Supervision of staff is inconsistent in quality and, when considering casework, does not provide good enough guidance or an overview of progress. While no child was seen to be left at significant risk and without intervention, child protection plans are not sufficiently focused on the links between parents’ actions and the impact on the child, making it more difficult for parents to understand their responsibilities,” said the report.
Strong leadership team evident at Manchester
Manchester has a strong and established leadership team that is supported by political and corporate leaders, Ofsted has said.
Effective and collaborative partnership working has supported the implementation of several significant changes and continuously monitors the impact of these changes on children’s lived experiences.
“The revised quality assurance arrangements now provide a framework to systematically monitor practice improvement. This information is used widely to support strategic planning, and learning and development for staff. Leaders and managers have acted swiftly when changes are identified. An example of this was when performance in relation to the retention of staff highlighted an increased number of staff leaving the local authority after two years; prompt action was taken to review the recruitment and retention strategy and a new proposal has been approved by senior managers,” said the report.
Senior managers working determinedly to improve services at Haringey
Following a thorough analysis of the weaknesses in practice, the Director of Children’s Services in Haringey, along with her assistant director, are working determinedly to systematically improve services for their most vulnerable residents.
A focused visit by Ofsted to the London Borough of Haringey found that senior managers and leaders have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the complex demands presented by a highly mobile and diverse local community in an inner-London borough with high levels of need. The DCS has taken a carefully considered and mature approach to achieving sustainable change.
“Leaders are tackling staff competence issues and helping social workers and their managers develop the requisite skills to take forward essential improvements more quickly. They are establishing strong foundations to ensure that the children supported across all teams consistently benefit from services that make a difference to their lives,” said the report.
Recruitment challenges hinder progress at Blackpool
Blackpool has been working with a range of partners to begin the process of transformational change within children’s services, Ofsted has said.
Since the inspection one year ago, Blackpool has worked closely with three partners in practice (PIP) authorities and the DfE commissioner to make improvements at the front door and deliver some initial training on a new model of practice, with a further programme to be rolled out across the workforce early in 2020.
However, at the time of this monitoring visit, the impact of this support had not led to sufficient change in the quality of social work practice.
“Significant financial investment in the last 12 months has led to a restructure of children’s services and increased capacity in social work teams. The workforce development offer has been reviewed and it is appropriately focused on seeking to attract permanent staff in order to reduce the significant reliance on agency social workers,” said the report.
Middlesbrough rated inadequate by Ofsted
The quality of children’s services in Middlesbrough has deteriorated since the last inspection in 2015, and services are now inadequate, Ofsted has said.
There are serious and widespread failures that leave children in harmful situations for too long. Risks to children and young people, including those who are being exploited, are not appropriately recognised, and insufficient action is taken to help and protect children. Leaders had recognised that significant improvements still need to be made, but had not fully identified the extent of the inadequacy at the point of inspection.
“Children experiencing longstanding neglect come into care too late, and decisions for them to do so are made in response to a crisis. Senior leaders have recognised that there are serious delays in achieving permanence for most children in care.
However, the action taken by the service to address this has not shown an impact on reducing delays for children. Management oversight in this regard is not sufficiently robust. Insufficient attention is given to ensuring timely care planning, particularly for very young children. This creates instability for children and hinders them in forming secure attachments,” said the report following the Ofsted inspection of children’s services.