Social work practice at the ‘front door’ in Rochdale has improved since the last inspection in 2018, Ofsted has said.
Consideration of children’s needs is at the centre of all work seen during the focused visit to Rochdale children’s services.
"When concerns arise for children in Rochdale, they receive a prompt and effective response, and children who are, or who are likely to be, at risk of harm are protected," said the report.
Children’s needs are appropriately and promptly identified through regular social work visits which meet their needs. This means that children can build effective and trusting relationships with social workers. Children’s views are effectively gathered by social workers, and these views are used to inform most of the assessments made as well as subsequent planning, it added.
In the focused visit, inspectors reviewed the local authority’s arrangements for managing contacts and referrals in the Early Help and Safeguarding Hub (EHASH) and thresholds for children in need of help and protection, including the quality of social work practice in the First Response Teams (FRT).
- Social workers take the time to get to know children and seek their wishes and feelings, either through direct work with them or from listening to what other professionals know about the children through their direct work.
- A skilled and knowledgeable Emergency Duty Team (EDT) works effectively with those who provide day-time services to ensure that children’s needs are responded to appropriately.
- When child protection concerns are identified, they are swiftly progressed to the FRTs for an immediate response.
- Contextual safeguarding information about issues like gangs, child sexual exploitation or radicalisation are also swiftly passed onto the FRTs, which, along with the Complex Safeguarding Team, sensitively use specialist knowledge to support the child and family and so reduce risks.
- Management oversight in the EHASH is effective.
- Children are protected through effective strategy meetings and child protection enquiries.
- Assessments of children’s needs are timely.
- Leaders have a clear vision for children’s outcomes in Rochdale.
It was also noted that a significant improvement since the last inspection in 2018 is a revised quality assurance framework. Rigorous monitoring of compliance to the auditing schedule is assisting leaders in having a good understanding of areas of good practice and of where improvements are required.
However, a weakness in the majority of assessments is the lack of consideration given to the child’s unique identity, and what this means for the child. In some cases, equality and diversity factors were completely omitted from the case record.
Caseloads are too high for social workers in the FRTs. While inspectors did not see any detrimental impact for children at this visit, there is the potential that high caseloads place additional pressures on social workers’ capacity to consistently carry out and record good-quality social work.
In order to improve, social workers need manageable caseloads to enable them to continue to deliver good-quality practice and the time to record the work they undertake. There also needs to be recognition and consideration of the impact that areas of equality and diversity have on a child’s daily life.
Management oversight and supervision also needs work to improve the consistency of practice for all social workers.