A permanent senior team combined with significant financial investment has led to service improvements and better outcomes for children in Gloucestershire, said Ofsted.
However, in the fourth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in March 2017, inspectors found this is not consistent and there are areas of practice that the local authority has not yet successfully addressed.
"The local authority has made considerable progress in establishing an environment in which good social work practice may flourish. The vast majority of social workers have manageable caseloads and only a small number of children experience delays in being allocated a social worker," said the report.
The report highlighted that:
- The recently established MASH is resulting in more streamlined processes and improved timeliness in decision-making.
- The professionals’ helpline has now been in place for six months and provides signposting as well as advice to professionals and to members of the public with queries or concerns about children.
- Social work practice within the assessment and safeguarding service is improving in quality and consistency.
- Most social workers know their children well and undertake purposeful visiting and direct work to understand children’s lived experiences.
- The local authority has addressed a large backlog of unallocated cases and regularly risk assesses the circumstances of the small number of children who wait a short time for a named social worker.
- The vast majority of social workers have manageable caseloads.
- Increasingly effective oversight by managers has led to improved timeliness in the completion of assessments, the vast majority of which are now completed within the national maximum timescale of 45 working days.
However, application of thresholds by social workers is in consistent and managers’ oversight of decision-making is insufficient. This has led to delays in protective action being taken to safeguard some children.
There are often delays in convening strategy discussions to consider risk to children and plan protective action, and they are not always convened where the threshold has been met, including where there is a clear disclosure of abuse.
In the absence of a stable, permanent workforce, too many children experience frequent changes in their social worker, reducing opportunities to build trusting relationships and progress plans.
Furthermore, action plans continue to be too variable in their quality. The rationale for decision-making and interventions is not consistently clear, reducing the effectiveness of care planning.
"Since the last inspection, the local authority has reconfigured children’s services, reducing the size of teams and increasing management capacity to improve the effectiveness of social work practice and performance, as well as management availability to staff," said the report.
"Increasingly, effective management oversight of decision-making by social workers and the quality and timeliness of assessments are leading to improvements in children’s circumstances. . However, further work is required to improve consistency in the quality of practice across the service," the report concluded.
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