Staff morale is high in the MASH and assessment teams at Nottinghamshire and staff have manageable caseloads, Ofsted has reported.
However, planning processes for undertaking child protection enquiries are not always robust. Strategy discussions are not always timely, and this delays formal decisions on child protection investigations.
"The rationale for decisions is not sufficiently explained in children’s records, and this includes giving reasons for why a strategy discussion has not been undertaken. Key partners, such as health agencies and schools, are not always included in strategy discussions. This means that not all information on potential risks to children is shared at these meetings and therefore not all partners will know about the child protection concerns," said the report.
"This reduces the effectiveness of information-sharing and reduces partners’ responsibilities in the child protection process," it added.
The report highlights:
- The Early Help Unit is effective and efficient in managing the ‘step-down’ process from children’s social care, which ensures that children are directed to services appropriate to their needs.
- When children need urgent protection and safeguarding, they are quickly allocated to a social worker and transferred to the appropriate assessment service.
- Senior leaders responded quickly and appropriately to a recent period of instability in the MASH resulting from staff turnover and an increase in demand for services.
- Team managers are diligent in ensuring that new staff, including new managers, have time to understand the MASH process.
- Children who have witnessed and experienced domestic abuse incidents at home receive additional oversight within the MASH through daily multi-agency domestic abuse meetings, where risks are discussed.
- Children’s assessments are mostly comprehensive and of good quality.
- Social workers make persistent efforts to engage with children and their parents when families are resistant to involvement with services.
Inspectors said that in order to improve practice, Nottinghamshire should focus on the quality of strategy discussions and meetings so that they are timely, involve all relevant partners and are well recorded. The quality and impact of audits need to improve so that they clearly evaluate the quality of social work practice. The quality of information-sharing, recording of decisions and child focus in the daily domestic abuse meeting should also be prioritised, the report concluded.