Reading children's services is improving services for young people preparing to leave care and care leavers, Ofsted has found.
In the seventh monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in June 2016, inspectors found that young people aged 16 and 17 are carefully prepared during this transition period through closely planned joint work between social workers and leaving care advisers. This produces suitable, clear arrangements for young people after they turn 18.
"A strong intent to build trusting, constructive and continuous professional relationships with young people who have left care permeates the work of social workers and LCAs. Social workers and LCAs are guided by helpful and supportive advice and direction from front line managers," said the report.
During the visit, inspectors reviewed the progress made in the area of young people leaving care, focusing on the quality and impact of the support provided by social workers and leaving care advisers (LCAs).
Based on the evidence gathered during this visit, young people leaving care receive better services than they did at the last inspection two years ago, said Ofsted. Senior and frontline managers, alongside social workers and LCAs, demonstrated that some effective measures have resulted in improved services for young people leaving care.
However, some recommendations from the 2016 inspection have taken too long to address, such as the distribution of detailed written information on young people’s entitlements and the overall offer provided by the service.
High LCA workloads, highlighted during an earlier monitoring visit, have not reduced. However, senior managers have recruited an additional three LCAs, who are scheduled to start their employment in the near future. This investment in additional posts is intended to reduce workloads to more manageable levels for a team of motivated and experienced LPAs. Workloads for four social workers, specialising in transition work with young people between 16 and 18 years of age, are reasonable.
The report highlighted that:
- Direct work with young people leaving care is a strength.
- Managers and LPAs know which young people are more vulnerable to greater risk, instability and chaos in their lives. Intense and frequent efforts are made to try and engage and divert young people who are involved in substance misuse or offending, or who are exposed to exploitation.
- Constructive partnership and multi-agency work is widely prevalent with youth offending services, the police, the virtual school, accommodation support workers, substance misuse workers and other organisations.
- Senior managers have worked methodically to improve the range and suitability and availability of accommodation for young people.
- Progress has been achieved in engaging more young people leaving care in meaningful education, employment and training opportunities.
- Young people who arrive as unaccompanied asylum seekers are carefully supported.
- Pathway planning for most young people is careful and thorough.
However, opportunities for young people to participate in and influence the provision and development of the services they receive are too limited. One young person spoken to by inspectors had been involved in recent interviews for senior management positions in the new children’s company, which he welcomed. Regular events and opportunities for care leavers to meet with senior managers are insufficient.
The quality of recorded management oversight is mixed, but all LCAs and social workers told inspectors that they feel well supported and guided in their direct work by managers who are easily available, knowledgeable and experienced. This is borne out in many thorough and evaluative case supervision records and written decisions seen during the visit: these provide clear and balanced actions for future direct work.
"A new permanent DCS took up his post shortly before this visit. He will go on to lead the newly formed independent children’s company, scheduled to become fully operational in the late autumn of 2018. The positive trend in the recruitment of more permanent team managers and social workers has been maintained since the last monitoring visit. His priority is to complete recruitment to a small number of senior management posts that remain vacant," the report concluded.