The director of children's services at Rutland and his senior leadership team are ambitious for children in the borough, Ofsted has said.
In a focused visit to Rutland, inspectors said senior management has a realistic understanding of service strengths and areas that still require improvement.
"The local authority has a permanent, stable and motivated workforce. Responses to child protection concerns are prompt. Investigations relating to allegations about professionals are thoroughly investigated by the designated officer, and responses to children at risk of exploitation are improving," said the report.
Since the last inspection, workforce stability has significantly improved. All managers and social workers are permanent. Feedback provided by staff during the visit was unanimously positive about working in Rutland.
However, although audits are thorough, highlighting both strong and weaker practice, they are not having sufficient impact on individual social work learning and practice, and ultimately on outcomes for children. The quality of assessments and plans remains variable.
Inspectors focused on the local authority’s arrangements for contacts and referrals. They highlighted:
- Contacts and referrals received from a range of agencies are appropriate. In situations where the threshold for statutory intervention is not met, social workers undertake relevant checks, speak with parents about the information provided, and consider with them whether the family would benefit from early help services before a ‘no further action’ decision is made.
- When the threshold is met and contacts progress to becoming referrals to social care, children’s cases are promptly allocated to a social worker.
- In urgent situations, strategy meetings, with contributions from all relevant partners, are held swiftly and the full range of information is discussed.
- Child protection investigations are timely, children at risk of significant harm are seen promptly, and actions are taken to ensure and promote their safety.
However, in less urgent situations, the service target is to see children requiring an assessment within three days but this target is not consistently met.
Supervision is not effectively steering case progression. Inspectors noted that team managers did not consistently check or challenge the completion of specific actions. Nor do they fully consider the impact of this on children.
They further noted that the quality of assessments is variable. While stronger assessments demonstrate that all risks have been considered and clearly articulate the views of children, thus reflecting good-quality direct work, other assessments are superficial, and provide limited insight into what children say and what life is like for them.
Children’s plans, deriving from their assessments, are too often vague, with a lack of focus on what needs to change to improve the child’s circumstances.
Reducing risks relating to child exploitation is a priority for senior leaders in Rutland. Leaders have developed an action plan which they are rolling out to ensure that all professionals across Rutland have knowledge about contextual safeguarding issues and understand how to respond to all types of suspected exploitation.
Rutland should focus on improving the consistency and quality of assessments, the consistency and quality of plans and the timeliness of children being visited who have initially been assessed as not being at immediate risk of harm but who may be in need of support.
Ofsted also recommends that Rutland should improve the level of challenge and consideration of impact and outcomes for children during supervision and other management oversight and the impact that audits are having on individual and wider learning and on improving outcomes for children.