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Progress at Birmingham but improvement still required

Birmingham children's services is continuing to make some progress in improving services but a number of areas continue to require improvements, Ofsted has said.

The Trust needs to improve its evaluation of social work practice, the consistent engagement of partners in contributing to multi-agency meetings and ensuring that in cases of neglect, over-optimism does not lead to inaction.

"More work is required to ensure that plans for improvement in children’s circumstances are easily understood by parents and that plans detail what the next steps will be when no progress is being made," said the report.

Ofsted's sixth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in November 2016 reviewed the progress made where children are subject to a child in need plan or a child protection plan.

Senior managers understand that further work is required to ensure that the standard of services for children and families in Birmingham continues to improve.

There has been some progress since the last inspection of services for children subject to children in need or child protection plans and no children were seen to be at immediate risk or experiencing significant drift in the progression of work.

Inspectors highlighted:

- Assessments of need are timely and lead to appropriate plans for support and intervention.

- Child protection and children in need plans accurately identify areas of risk and improvements required.

- Social workers know their cases well and children are being seen alone and their views and experiences are captured through age-sensitive direct work.

- Statutory visits are routinely undertaken within agreed timescales and often more frequently than that.

- Social workers reported that supervision is regular and recorded.

Child protection and children in need plans accurately identify areas of risk and improvements required. Although outcomes sought are identified, they are often very general and not specific enough to the circumstances of individual children.

More engagement by partners is evident in multi-agency forums, although this is still not consistent and, where it is not happening, limits the effectiveness of these meetings.

While, in many instances, there is an attempt in conferences and plans to explain what needs to improve, the language can still be complicated and difficult for some parents and older children to understand.

Where attendance is poor, the value of conferences and core groups is limited and progress and access to information, services and resources are hampered. In a small number of cases, schools do not demonstrate a clear understanding of their role in ensuring access to resources for those clearly in need of services. This includes a very late referral to the Trust for a severely disabled adolescent and not prioritising entry to school for a child on a protection plan. Social workers have expressed frustration about the high threshold for access to child and adolescent mental health services (Forward Thinking Birmingham) and long delays in the commencement of services when the threshold is met, delaying improved outcomes for children.

Senior managers in the Trust are aware that cross-partnership working requires a continued focus if an effective frontline response to the needs of vulnerable children is to be delivered.

"The Trust has demonstrated that it has made some continued improvements in the quality of social work practice since the last inspection. Further work remains to be done to ensure that practice is consistently good and that the best outcomes for all children are achieved on a timely and consistent basis," the report concluded.

Birmingham monitoring report

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