Redcar and Cleveland has improved the quality of some areas of social work practice for children in need of help and protection since the last inspection in 2017, Ofsted has said.
The implementation of a widely recognised social work model is supporting practice consistency across the partnership. The quality of assessments is improving, plans use clear and accessible language, and planning is effective. The management of allegations against professionals is now more robust.
"Despite heavy investment to increase capacity, social work caseloads have still increased and the pace of change in improving some areas of practice identified at the last judgement inspection in January 2017 is too slow. These areas include the support for children privately fostered, the quality of written plans, and quality assurance. The local authority does not always assess connected carers appropriately when managers make the decision that children can no longer live at home safely. Senior managers are implementing plans to improve the quality of support for disabled children and to ensure that all children get the right level of support to meet their needs," the focused visit which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children in need, children subject to a child protection plan, children living in private fostering arrangements and the management of allegations against professionals found.
Despite only being in post for four weeks at the time of this inspection, the new director of children's services has already initiated plans to strengthen quality assurance and review children’s services, the report added.
- Increased financial investment has secured additional workforce capacity and supported the retention of social workers. Despite this, the recent significant rise in demand for social care services means that the benefits of this increased capacity have not been realised, and caseloads have increased.
- The quality and impact of social work practice is effective. Children and their families benefit from an extensive range of help and support, and, as a result,many children’s circumstances are improving.
- Senior managers have spent significant time and energy on further strengthening the skills of social work staff and partners through extensive training in a widely recognised social work model.
- Social workers speak with authority and clearly know their children and families well. Improved use of chronologies is helping social workers to have a greater understanding of children’s experiences and family support networks.
- Inspectors saw some effective direct work with children, but this is not consistent. In some cases, direct work lacks creativity to support meaningful engagement with children.
- Most assessments now make good use of children’s histories to understand cumulative harm. There is a good breadth of multi-agency contribution and clearer recognition of risks and strengths.
- Planning for many children is effective. Plans are regularly reviewed, and services are well coordinated by passionate and skilled social workers. Inspectors saw good examples of impactful partnership working which is improving children’s lives.
- When children’s circumstances do not improve, children’s cases quickly escalate to pre-proceedings. Once this is identified, the use of the public law outline (PLO) is not sufficiently robust.
- Senior managers recognise that some disabled children are not receiving the right level of help and support. Inspectors identified children receiving a social work intervention who did not need this level of intrusion.
- Private fostering arrangements are not consistently robust. Appropriate checks are not always timely, nor are all arrangements assessed to ensure their suitability and safety. This has not been adequately addressed despite being identified at the last inspection.
- The local authority does not always make clear decisions when children are placed with connected persons. Inspectors identified a small number of children who the local authority have determined can no longer live with their parents safely, and who, as a result, live with wider family. Despite this, these children are not recognised as entering care, nor do they benefit from the level of support and oversight that is brought by the statutory framework under regulation 24 of the 2010 care planning regulations. Consequently, these placements are unassessed to ensure that they are safe, suitable and able to meet children’s needs.
- Since the last inspection, monitoring and tracking of allegations against professionals who work with children has been more robust. Allegations are better managed through close monitoring of agency actions, followed up when required.
- Most supervision lacks reflection on children’s current circumstances and the impact of social work interventions. Supervision does not always help social workers think through problems and challenges.
"Social workers are very positive about working for Redcar. They report feeling very well supported by accessible team managers and their knowledgeable service manager. They are helped to manage work pressures through a highly valued team approach, and feel listened to in times of crisis," the report concluded.
In order to improve, Redcar and Cleveland should address the management and oversight of practice relating to connected carers under Regulation 24 of the 2010 care planning regulations. The quality of assessments need improving so that children’s diverse needs are fully explored, particularly those of disabled children.
The quality of written plans needs work so that all risks and needs are addressed, and so that children’s progress can be monitored more effectively.
Redcar should also improve the quality and frequency of management oversight, including pre-proceedings and supervision, to reflect the risks and complexity of children’s circumstances, to review thresholds, and to provide clear, time bound case directions and actions.
Focused visit to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council children’s services