Children’s services in Poole require improvement to be good, Ofsted has said.
Inspectors highlighted that the director of children’s services and her leadership team have worked purposefully with partners to implement a number of changes to improve outcomes for children since the last inspection in 2011.
This includes the introduction of a new electronic casework system, the appointment of an interim service head, the development of a stable and committed workforce, the creation of the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH), the transfer of adoption services to a regional adoption agency, the strengthening of early help services and restructuring of services to children in need.
“As a result, some children receive helpful interventions,” said the report. “Yet, despite these developments, outcomes for children across the services are inconsistent. While the council’s adoption performance and its support for care leavers are strong, the pace of overall improvement across the service has been variable, and weaknesses have emerged in services for children looked after and in need of help and protection.”
Inspectors noted, however, that senior managers know that there is still work to do to strengthen many aspects of social work practice to make it consistently good.
The report highlights that:
- Clear governance arrangements are in place.
- The improvement board’s role in overseeing performance and progress has been strengthened by independent validation.
- The council’s improvement plan is focused on the right areas and has led to some improvements, such as regular visits from social workers, timely children looked after reviews and a reduction in social workers’ caseloads.
Yet there has not been sufficient impact to improve all key areas of practice. In particular, a minority of strategy meetings and child protection investigations are delayed, and partners are not consistently attending child protection conferences or core groups. Weak management oversight and some poor practice in the out-of-hours service have left some children vulnerable.
Services for children requiring adoption are good and the authority is achieving permanence through adoption for children from a range of different ages and backgrounds. Social workers prepare children well for their transition to their adoptive families.
Care leavers receive a good service and staff support them well to progress in education, training and employment, and in preparation for independent living.
Inspectors recommend that Poole ensures that there is sufficient capacity in the multi-agency safeguarding hub for timely sharing of information to meet the needs of children.
There should be sufficient capacity in the out-of-hours service to meet the needs of children and provide effective oversight and challenge of the management of this service.
The skills of the workforce should be developed to ensure that children’s identity, culture and ethnicity are actively considered in assessments, and inform planning. Systems for oversight of the progression of children’s permanence should be strengthened to ensure that they do not experience unnecessary drift and delay.