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Pace of progress too slow at Tameside for looked-after children

The pace of progress has been slow in too many areas of the service for looked-after children in Tameside, Ofsted has warned.

Inspectors found some evidence of improving performance in the timeliness of statutory requirements, such as reviews, completion of health assessments and personal education plans.

"The quality of social work practice, supervision and management oversight, and challenge by independent reviewing officers (IROs) still require significant improvement to ensure that practice improves and delivers good outcomes for children looked after," said the report.

The visit was the sixth monitoring visit since Tameside authority was judged inadequate in December 2016. The visit focused on the progress made with regards to children looked after, with a focus on the quality of assessments and care plans, the timeliness of permanence planning, the effectiveness of management oversight and independent reviewing officer (IRO) scrutiny and the effectiveness of corporate parenting.

The report warns that it is of significant concern that many of the areas of the service that need improvement for children looked after are the same as those highlighted in the Ofsted inspection two years ago.

Progress has been slow and the local authority recognises the need to accelerate progress and improve basic practice. Senior managers acknowledge that there was little progress made during 2017 to improve services for children looked after.

Changes in staffing have resulted in an increase in caseloads and a number of children experiencing a change of social worker, which has impacted on the quality of care planning for them.

"The difficulty in trying to secure a stable workforce is the local authority’s biggest challenge. Strategic leaders recognise this and are making every effort to recruit permanent staff with the relevant skills and experience to support children," said the report.

Ofsted said:

- The threshold for bringing children into care is appropriate.

- Recording in case notes is timely

- Statutory visits to children are taking place regularly, children are seen alone by their social workers, recordings of visits are thorough, and the voice of the child is evident.

- The majority of statutory reviews for children are held regularly.

- Contact arrangements are well managed, reviewed and informed by the child’s wishes and needs.

- Quality assurance processes are improving.

However, the quality of child and family assessments and plans is weak and assessments are not routinely updated to reflect changes in a child’s circumstances. Written care plans are not routinely shared by social workers with carers, parents and professionals.

Management oversight by front-line managers lacks rigour and consistency and is not focused on driving improvements in the quality of practice.

Supervision for social workers is either not taking place regularly or is not being recorded. Where it is recorded it has not provided an analytical overview of the children’s case, clear case direction or demonstrated reflective practice.

"Senior leaders are aware of the impact of the impending changes at senior management level and have transition plans in place to ensure there is a smooth handover. If these are successful, the local authority may be able to expedite the pace of improvement that is needed," the report concluded.

Monitoring visit of Tameside

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