Senior managers at Redcar and Cleveland have acted to improve their response when children need help and protection since the last Ofsted inspection, the inspectorate has said.
The functions of the first contact team have been reviewed and restructured and the team now undertakes assessments as well as reviewing contacts and referrals, the focused visit to Redcar and Cleveland local authority children’s services found.
"There is increased management capacity and strengthened performance information and quality assurance," said the report. "However, increasing workloads, recruitment challenges, budgetary pressures, and a lack of robust improvement planning have impeded the pace of change."
Inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for the ‘front door', the initial response to children in need of help and protection, and the management of allegations of abuse, mistreatment and poor practice by professionals and carers.
The report highlighted:
- Senior managers have a good understanding of the quality of their services through improved performance information, quality assurance systems, and the use of external scrutiny through peer reviews and specialist consultation.
- When children are identified as being at risk of significant harm, the response to protect them is swift and appropriate.
- Child protection enquiries in the cases seen are thorough, and outcomes are appropriate.
- Most contacts and referrals seen are progressed quickly, with appropriate management oversight.
- Senior managers have worked strategically with partners, through the local safeguarding board, to refresh the early help strategy.
- Senior managers are well focused on improving the quality and consistency of social work practice, introducing mandatory getting-to-good sessions, and, more recently, practice workshops.
However, the quality of information provided by agencies when they have a concern about a child is not always sufficiently clear or detailed to inform decisions about next steps. Most assessments seen by inspectors are not good enough.
Audit activity is routine, with a broad range of auditor experience and skills from across the workforce. However, themes and learning from audits are not routinely translated into clear action planning to effectively improve practice and this impedes the pace of change.
"Social workers are very positive about working in Redcar. They feel well supported, listened to and valued by managers and senior managers. The views of social workers were central to the development of the new front door. They told inspectors that the new structure has brought a refreshed sense of job satisfaction," said the report.
"Senior managers’ initial evaluation of the service is underway. Workload pressures are impacting on some workers’ ability to maintain up-to-date records. The first contact team manager has introduced weekly reviews for each social worker to monitor and better manage workloads. Supervision on children’s cases is thorough and reflective," the report concluded.