Children in Barnsley are at the heart of strategic thinking, decision-making, and operational practice, which leads to good-quality services from a skilled and motivated workforce, Ofsted has said.
Services for children in Barnsley are good and there has been steady improvement at successive inspections since 2012, the inspection of children’s social care services found.
"The resolute focus on improving outcomes for children is shared across the partnership and is underpinned by political commitment and financial investment and a self-evaluation that shows that leaders know their services well," said the report.
Almost all children who need help and protection receive a timely service that meets their needs. The integrated ‘front door’ is effective in managing risk and protecting children. Thorough assessments with a well-considered analysis of the risks affecting children lead, for the most part, to targeted plans and interventions which are improving outcomes and reducing risk effectively.
The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection were rated good. Inspectors noted:
- Children and families benefit from a good early help offer, which has been redesigned to be delivered through a family centre 0–19 model.
- The integrated front door and multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) in Barnsley work well to protect children.
- Assessments are of good quality and they describe the child’s world well.
- Social workers know their children well and their understanding of children’s circumstances is informed by social workers who are professionally curious and tenacious in their work with families.
- The practice relating to help and protection in the disabled children’s team is good.
- Where there is an indication of possible risk from sexual or criminal exploitation, referrals are screened and assessed effectively by a specialist child sexual exploitation social worker.
However, the response to children going missing is not robust enough for all children. Children’s plans describe well the reasons and triggers that lead to the need for the plan. However,they do not always cover all the risks or detail what needs to be done to improve the child’s situation.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers are rated as good. Ofsted noted:
- When children come in to care, they receive a good service.
- There are well-established and collaborative working relationships with the local judiciary and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), which have a clear focus on the child.
- Foster carer recruitment, training and approval are effective.
- Children’s care plans identify and meet their needs.
- The majority of children benefit from timely and well-considered options for permanence.
However, there are a small number of children whose emotional health needs are not being adequately met by the provision of a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).
For some older young people, particularly where they have been involved in criminal activity, assessments and subsequent intervention is not informed by multi-agency information about the range of risks to which they are exposed.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was rated as good. The report highlighted:
- Effective and principled leadership by the executive director, chief executive and leader of the council models and sets out high aspirations for children in Barnsley.
- Strategic and operational partnerships are mature and effective, and thresholds for services are understood across the partnerships.
- Managers have a good grip on most areas of practice.
- Social work practice in Barnsley is flourishing, social workers are confident practitioners who know their children well. Practice is child-focused and the voice of the child is embedded throughout the service.
- Workforce stability is excellent, which means that children benefit from being able to develop consistent relationships with social workers.
- Staff morale is high, and staff are proud to work in Barnsley. They are positive about the support, guidance and training they receive and the visibility of senior managers.
However, the audits reviewed by inspectors did not always fully involve social workers or take account of feedback from children and families and were not moderated. This means that audit activity misses some opportunities to develop practice through feedback.
To improve social work practice, Ofsted recommends risk assessment and the understanding of the wider risks to which young people are exposed in the community, including the timeliness and quality of return home interviews when children are reported missing from home and care.
There should be regular reviews of the use of private fostering arrangements to ensure that they remain appropriate to meet children’s needs. The numbers of care leavers aged 19–21 in education, employment and training should also be prioritised.
The rigour of audit and dip sampling activity and how data informs an understanding of the quality of practice and timeliness performance for initial child protection case conferences also needs work.