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Social work practice is inconsistent in Coventry

Ofsted has warned that the quality of social work practice remains inconsistent at Coventry children's services.

While there is a concerted focus on achieving permanency for children in care in Coventry, too many children do not have an updated assessment to inform their care plan, and the Public Law Outline (PLO) is not used effectively at the pre-proceedings stage to assess and support children who may be at risk of harm.

"Delays in achieving permanence exist for some children on placement order, and some permanence options, such as special guardianship, are not promoted enough.

Children’s files do not always show how permanence decisions are made. The local authority does not have a system to track and prioritise matching for children placed in long-term fostering arrangements," said the report.

The focused visit which reviewed the local authority’s arrangements for permanence planning and achieving permanence for children in care found that the local authority understands itself well and has responded to the areas for improvement identified at the last inspection relating to permanence. However, the local authority recognises that although recent improvements have been made, more needs to be done. There is strong political support for children in care.

Inspectors highlighted:

- Children in Coventry are benefiting from increasing workforce stability and as a result children develop positive relationships with their social workers, who know them well.

- The vast majority of children are appropriately placed with their carers and have a current and effective permanence plan that has improved their situation and outcomes.

- More children in Coventry are benefiting from careful consideration of alternative care arrangements when they cannot remain with their birth parents.

- Recent practice in achieving early permanence for children is improving.

- There is a sufficient range of placements to support children being placed with their siblings when this is assessed as being in their best interests.

- Coventry invests in, prioritises and understands the value of quality assurance and audit activity.

- There is a comprehensive and well-articulated workforce strategy, a decreasing reliance on agency staff and a strong training offer for staff.

However, too many children do not have an up-to-date, written analytical assessment to inform their care plans. For some children with a plan for adoption, there are delays in family finding.

Some children do not have clear information about their placements through their childhood and beyond and while adoption is routinely considered as a permanence option for children, some children who are harder to place remain subject to placement orders for too long without being successfully matched.

Ofsted recommends that Coventry prioritises the early identification of children who should be considered under the preproceedings stage of the PLO and the early identification of connected persons, carers and foster carers who may be able to offer permanence.

Placement choice for children, with a plan for adoption should be improved and there should be better consideration and promotion of special guardianship.

Tracking arrangements for children on placement orders and those in long-term foster placements need to improve and the consistency in the quality of the recording of supervision and ensuring key documents are on case files needs addressing.

Focused visit to Coventry City Council children’s services

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