There is a real sense of energy and enthusiasm in managers and personal advisers at Wirral who are keen and committed to improve services to care leavers, a monitoring visit from Ofsted has found.
Ofsted carried out a third monitoring visit of the authority since it was judged inadequate in July 2016 and during this visit, inspectors focused on the progress made in improving support to care leavers.
“The new care leavers’ service, which has been established since the time of the inspection, has reinvigorated this area of work. It is still early days, and most of the progress has been made since March,” said inspector Susan Myers in a letter to Deborah Gornik at Wirral.
The local authority has invested resources inti the service and the number of personal advisers has grown from three at the time of inspection to 16. As a result, this increased capacity has resulted in reduced caseloads, which give staff the time to get to know young people better and to support them to achieve their goals.
At t the time of the inspection, IRO caseloads were too high, and this limited IROs’ capacity to visit children regularly enough and to raise and escalate shortfalls in practice effectively.
They now have an improved footprint on case notes and more influence on the progression of children’s plans. Improved systems and processes for raising and tracking concerns have resulted in improved timeliness in social workers responding to escalations.
A wide range of managers are involved in completing audits. This results in managers developing auditing skills across the service, spreading learning and promoting good practice.
At the time of the inspection in 2016, the local authority had lost touch with many care leavers. There was no dedicated care leavers’ service or a specific place for care leavers to meet with each other and with their PAs. However, determined effort to correct this has resulted in the service being in contact with all care leavers and the vast majority of care leavers now having regular contact with the team.
All children are allocated a PA to work alongside their social worker when they are 16 which provides children with the opportunity to gradually get to know and build trust with their PA before their case is transferred.
All care leavers have a pathway plan, however, these are still of variable quality. Plans are not regularly updated to reflect significant changes, for example when young people leave staying-put placements to live with a partner or become a parent.
Since the inspection in 2016, two dedicated nurses have been appointed to support and advise care leavers on staying healthy and to promote access to health services. Care leavers who have used counselling, drug and alcohol support and mental health services said that these have helped them and made a positive difference, but that they had to wait too long for the service.