Progress to improve multi-agency arrangements in Lewisham since the previous Ofsted inspection in 2015 has been slow, Ofsted has said in a report.
A focused visit to Lewisham local authority children’s services in September which focused on the ‘front door’ arrangements for the service that considers contacts and referrals, including decision-making within the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) said athere had been a recently completed a review of children’s social care services, which was commissioned by the chief executive following his appointment in May 2018.
"An independent in-depth diagnostic review of the functioning and effectiveness of MASH arrangements was undertaken and concluded that progress to improve multi-agency arrangements since the previous inspection in 2015 has been slow," said the report.
"Staff and managers do not have access to effective and reliable systems to record work. This results in limited reports on key areas of performance," it added.
The MASH includes a wide range of agencies, the report found. However, only a very small number of children benefit from comprehensive multi-agency information-sharing informing decisions.
Information is only gathered from other agencies once a decision has been made for the referral to be handled by early help services.
- MASH and the early help service are well resourced with experienced practitioners, and there is potential for contributions from a wide range of partner agencies.
- There is good progress in working with children with complex needs, and specialist roles to identify the risks and work with children who go missing, or who are at risk of child sexual exploitation or trafficking are making a positive difference.
- The early help service is well resourced, with experienced practitioners.
- Issues of significant harm are recognised and responded to appropriately, and cases progress to section 47 enquiries without delay.
- Vulnerable adolescents are quickly identified and receive a consistent response to risk.
- Social workers are committed to improving practice, they are loyal to Lewisham and enjoy working there.
However, arrangements for auditing the quality of practice are underdeveloped and assessments vary in the quality and depth of analysis.
Management oversight and supervision take place frequently, but managers do not consistently provide rigour and challenge or take a fresh look at a child’s circumstances.
Managers do not have a comprehensive range of performance data or rich management information to inform their understanding of the quality of practice, or to assist them in identifying trends or patterns for children in Lewisham.
Ofsted recommends Lewisham focuses on the following to improve social work practice:
- The business processes and systems to progress and record work into the MASH, and the integration of early help and assessment records.
- The range and accessibility of performance data.
- Clarification of thresholds and access to services.
- The effective use of information in the MASH.
- The quality and consistency of assessments.
"Senior managers recognise that there is more work to do to improve the systems and approach at the front door so that all children receive an effective social work response. Appropriate plans are in place to address this," the report concluded.