Improvement is needed at Luton children’s services, a focused visit of the authority by Ofsted has found.
The quality of social work practice and performance is too variable, and improving consistency remains a challenge, the focused visit which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in care, including disabled children, found.
“Social workers strive to help children in care to remain in placements which meet their needs, promote their education and provide them with stability. However, placement choice is often limited and some children, particularly adolescents, are more likely to experience frequent moves,” said the report. “Challenges in maintaining a stable workforce are evident. Caseloads are too high in some teams.”
Hampshire children’s services have been rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
The inspection of children’s services found that since the last full inspection in 2014, the director and his leadership team have resolutely focused on continuing to improve the help, care and protection provided to children.
“Social workers are highly skilled at building meaningful relationships with children, engaging them in their assessments and plans. Children in care benefit from high-quality support, which is making a real difference to their outcomes. Management oversight of practice is clear and considered, ensuring that children’s plans progress at pace.
Children’s lives consistently improve as a result of the help they receive,” said the report.
Children and families in Gateshead receive a good-quality service with good practice within most areas of the service, which has a demonstrably positive impact on improving children and family’s circumstances, according to Ofsted.
There are well-established multiagency partnerships, thresholds are well understood and applied, ensuring that families receive the right help in a timely way and there is a resolute focus on the child, which is threaded through all levels of the service.
The Ofsted report following the inspection of children’s services explained that following the last inspection in 2015, when the local authority was judged good overall, the service experienced almost two years of instability, with four changes of Director of Children’s Services and loss of staff in the broader workforce. This, combined with funding pressures and decisions to make cuts in some back-office services, resulted in a deterioration in the quality of some service provision. The new DCS, in post for 18 months, focused initially on creating firm foundations from which to make the necessary improvements.
There continues to be strong political and corporate support for children’s services at Wandsworth, Ofsted has reported.
This includes ongoing investment, including increased capacity at senior manager level, increased numbers of social workers in the referral and assessment service and plans for additional early help staff, a focused visit of the authority found.
“The recruitment of a permanent social care workforce is a strategic priority. Since January, staff turnover has reduced and there is less reliance on temporary social workers. However, progress in the referral and assessment service has been hampered by staff turnover and, for a few social workers, high caseloads. While there has been some improvement in key areas of practice in the service, such as the timeliness of some assessments, this improvement is very recent,” said the report, which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for receiving referrals about children who may be in need or who may be at risk of significant harm, children transferring to and from early help services, the effectiveness of child protection enquiries and the quality of assessments for children in need.
Services for children and families in Lincolnshire are outstanding, Ofsted has said, demonstrating the progress that leaders have made since the previous inspection in 2014, when the service was judged good overall.
Leaders have responded well to the findings of a focused visit and have implemented a new quality assurance framework which has delivered improvements to services for children, the inspection of children’s services found.
“An insightful, highly motivated and extremely child-centred senior leadership team has been relentless in its quest to improve the life experiences of and chances for children in the county,” said the report.
Children’s services in Redbridge have been judged to be outstanding after the appointment of the current director of children’s services in October 2016 led to the further strengthening of services following the previous inspection in 2016, when services were judged to be good.
The children’s services inspection of the local authority found that the DCS is supported effectively by purposeful and informed political leaders and a stable and appropriately authoritative senior management team. Senior managers and leaders demonstrate relentless drive and ambition for children, which lead to the provision of consistently strong and highly effective services for them.
“This exceptional leadership is, in equal parts, enabling and challenging, promoting best practice and innovation. Staff enjoy working in Redbridge. They feel safe and well supported. This results in purposeful work to keep children at home safely whenever it is possible and safe to do so,” said the report.
“This exemplary management has created conditions that afford workers the time, professional expertise and capacity to get to know children and young people well and exercise their professional expertise. This best practice secures positive experiences and good progress for children,” the report added.
Since the last monitoring visit of Sunderland children’s services, there has been a deterioration in the quality of some services, and not all children are being protected, Ofsted has warned.
Management oversight and quality assurance are not sufficiently robust in identifying and addressing weaknesses in practice. Information to the council and the quality improvement committee (QIC) does not provide an accurate picture of the quality of work and progress being made.
“Management oversight is still weak and quality assurance arrangements are not robust. Many of the findings of this visit were not known about by Together for Children, the council and the QIC, and the information they collectively receive does not assist in them knowing accurately the quality of the work and the consequent impact on children,” said the Ofsted report.
Wakefield children’s services has undertaken significant activity to strengthen the front door and build a sustainable framework to support social work practice, Ofsted has said.
In the second monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in all areas in the SIF in July 2018, inspectors found that despite this, the impact of planned actions is too slow in some critical areas of core social work practice.
“This includes, weaknesses in identifying risk, screening of contacts and decision making at the front door. Although some assessments are improving, too many are still of poor quality, and child protection enquiries are not consistently thorough. Not all frontline managers consistently challenge poor practice,” said the report.
Buckinghamshire children’s services has made steady progress in improving the quality of intervention when children are first referred to the multi-agency safeguarding hub, Ofsted has said.
Most children are receiving helpful support when they are first referred to children’s social care, but variable practice remains evident within both the multi-agency safeguarding hub and assessment teams, said the monitoring report of the authority.
“Leaders are making steady progress in improving the service to children when they are referred to children’s social care. The multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) provides a mostly effective response to children’s needs for early help and statutory intervention. Systems in the MASH are efficient, leading to timely and decisive action for most children,” said the report.