The authority has demonstrated that it has made improvements in the quality of social work practice since the last inspection, however, further work remains to be done to ensure that practice is consistently good and that the best outcomes for all children are achieved on a timely and consistent basis.
“Despite progress already made, senior managers are aware that considerable work needs to be done to ensure that services for children in Birmingham are of a standard at which outcomes for children are consistently good,” said the report. “Improvements include the completion of work to reduce social work caseloads to a manageable level and to stabilise the workforce.”
The monitoring visit to Birmingham children’s services was the second monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in November 2016. Inspectors reviewed the progress made to services for children who have a disability and who are subject to a children in need plan and, more broadly, children who have a children in need plan and who require social work services.
The report highlighted:
- Quality assurance of work is supported by a good-quality audit format, and this is helping the local authority to understand its performance and the impact of practice on outcomes for children.
- The children with a disability service (CWD) moved from education to children’s services which has been positive and helped to ensure a focus on safer practice.
- Social work practice is now stronger and shows an improvement from the time of the inspection, and children and families are now being regularly visited.
- Social work caseloads are manageable and social workers in the CWD service have more time to build and establish relationships with the children they work with.
- In almost all cases, thresholds for children considered to be in need are appropriately applied.
However, further progress is required for assessments and planning to be of a consistently good enough standard and the standard of management oversight, in affirming case direction and the quality of work done, remains too variable.
The quality of case recording, including that of home visits, is not consistently good, the report adds.
While management oversight was evident in all cases seen, the quality of oversight particularly in case supervision remains variable.
There was a lack of effective coordination between agencies in a number of more complex cases seen. This includes non-attendance at children in need meetings, which makes it difficult to update progress, and a failure of school, health and special education needs services to ensure that education is being provided to support the prevention of family breakdown.
“Through its use of its practice evaluation document (audit tool), the local authority has already identified many of the issues outlined in this letter and so was able to effectively evaluate and, where necessary, remedy any deficits. The authority has demonstrated that it has made improvements in the quality of social work practice since the last inspection. Further work remains to be done to ensure that practice is consistently good and that the best outcomes for all children are achieved on a timely and consistent basis,” the report concluded.