Kirklees children's services has made "significant progress" in improving its initial response to children and young people who need help and protection, according to Ofsted.
The latest monitoring visit since the authority was rated inadequate in September 2016 found that strengthened processes and effective management oversight is ensuring robust decision-making. This is monitored routinely and challenged appropriately, inspectors found.
"Assessment and plans are improved, with more assessments that better identify and evaluate risk and consider the experiences of children," said the report.
The local authority is aware, and inspectors saw, that there is still more to do to ensure that consistency and quality improves in relation to a timely initial response to cases where children need a social work assessment, and in relation to ensuring that children’s records are comprehensive and up to date.
In addition, in a small number of cases seen, children did not receive a social work assessment of needs when this would have been appropriate based on the presenting issues. A comprehensive core skills programme of training for social workers and managers has commenced in order to support good-quality improvements across the workforce.
The report said:
- Children are being offered appropriate and timely interventions to keep them safe when they are at risk of immediate harm.
- The system for monitoring the quality of decision-making has been strengthened.
- In the majority of cases seen, thresholds are being appropriately applied for children in need of a social work response.
- When there is a concern that a child is at risk of significant harm, a timely multi-agency strategy meeting is held.
- The multi-agency response to risk is effective and good attendance at multi-agency meetings was seen.
- The quality of child protection plans has improved since the last visit in July 2018 and the majority are now clearly focused on the presenting issues, are time bound and are regularly reviewed.
- Inspectors found mostly effective management decision-making at every level.
However, at times, the richness of direct work and the relationships that social workers have with children were not as clearly conveyed in the records as they were in the verbal descriptions given.
In addition, case notes are not always up to date which means that management oversight is weakened.
During the inspection, inspectors saw weaker practice for some children who are receiving ongoing interventions. In some cases, children are not being seen in a timely way, and, in others, it is not clear whether visits have taken place within a suitable timeframe for the child.
Audits remain focused on compliance issues and are not sufficiently focused on children’s experiences.
Inspectors noted: "The workforce is now increasingly stable. There has been a considerable improvement in the recruitment of permanent staff at all levels. The morale of those workers spoken to is good, and they feel well supported by managers."
"Performance targets are now suitably ambitious, with clear plans for, and continued monitoring of, priority areas in day-to-day practice," the report concluded.