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Significant weaknesses at Wakefield uncovered by Ofsted

Some children is Wakefield children’s services are not being appropriately safeguarded or having their needs met, Ofsted has warned.

There are significant weaknesses in the quality of children’s services in Wakefield, the focused visit to the authority found. There are delays in allocating cases, visiting children and their families, carrying out assessments and in taking the appropriate action to protect children.

“Management oversight, including supervision, is variable and in some cases not evident. Social work recording is too often missing and quality assurance and performance management systems are not sufficiently robust to ensure that managers are fully aware of the quality of services and the experiences of individual children and their families,” said the report.

Politicians, the chief executive and senior managers are well aware of the issues, have taken some positive steps and have plans in place to address the concerns. However, at the time of the focused visit there was insufficient capacity at all levels of the service, and the issues of poor practice were so widespread that it will be a “significant challenge” for these plans to result in children being sufficiently safeguarded in the immediate future, said the report.

The report highlighted:

  • There were significant capacity issues throughout Wakefield children’s services.
  • There are significant gaps in frontline management and social work staffing throughout the service.
  • Social work teams have insufficient capacity to meet the needs of children and families.
  • The last six children that had been received into care should have been there, however, decision-making was not timely enough.
  • There are high numbers of unallocated cases and delayed assessments.
  • Most child protection visits were not being completed within the timescales agreed to safeguard children or meet their needs.
  • Social workers reported to inspectors that they had irregular supervision, with some experiencing months between supervision meetings.
  • The local authority is rolling out a programme of training and supervision for all workers but due to work pressures, social workers had been unable to attend.

Inspectors highlighted how a commissioned report in November 2017 identified that around 90% of contacts being received by Wakefield children’s services did not meet the agreed thresholds for social work intervention. And a January 2018 multi-agency audit found that about 10% of cases at the front door had been closed inappropriately without further work being undertaken, including ensuring that children were safe. Partner agencies do not agree on the thresholds for intervention and closure, which reinforces the LSCB’s concerns.

However, it was noted that recently the MASH has instigated strategy meetings on new child protection referrals promptly, with good attendance from partner agencies.

The local authority needs to take swift and decisive action to address the delays in case allocation, assessment and seeing children at risk of harm, management oversight and decision-making in relation to safeguarding practice, including supervision of staff and social work recording, performance management and quality assurance arrangements.

In order to improve social work practice, audits need to recognise good practice and consistently challenge weak practice, and identified concerns need to be immediately addressed. There needs to be a sufficient number of experienced social workers, managers and senior managers, who in turn need to be suitably deployed to ensure a robust social work response to children and families.

Finally, the relationships between the local authority and partners through the LSCB need to be strengthened in order to better support understanding of thresholds and their application, including the attendance by partner agencies at strategy meetings.

Wakefield focused inspection

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