Kirklees children’s services has increased the pace of improvement which has resulted in some steady progress being made, Ofsted has said.
There is more work to do to improve and embed the quality and timeliness of the social work response to children and families, and to tackle drift and delay, the inspectorate warned in the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was judged as inadequate for services for children in need of help and protection and children looked after in October 2016.
“Since the last monitoring visit, the local authority has made steady progress, and firm foundations are now in place for securing improvements in service delivery,” said the report, which focused on the experiences of children in need of help and protection.
“There is an improving picture in relation to: management oversight through systematic case auditing and regular supervision; staff engagement and morale; the response to pre-birth concerns; workforce stability; and partnership working.”
“No children were seen where risk of immediate harm was unassessed and not responded to,” the report added.
The senior leadership team has a “thorough and realistic understanding” of the areas for improvement. The self-assessment is robust and there are appropriately focused plans to improve services for children and families. Firm foundations are now in place to move the service forward, Ofsted said, and there is increasingly sound monitoring of progress, for example through the systematic auditing of cases and improved regularity of supervision. However, managers are not always recognising when they need to challenge drift and delay for children.
There is a more stable workforce at a senior and frontline manager level and almost all posts are now filled. Very recently, advanced practitioners have been appointed to every social work team - non-case holding practitioners recruited to support the development of social work practice. Staff have articulated that this is starting to support and promote service improvement.
Morale is much improved and social workers are better engaged and report that support is more readily available and that senior leaders are approachable.
The report also highlighted:
- Case supervision is now regular, task-orientated and appropriately focused on securing compliance.
- There is an improving multi-agency response to children at risk of significant harm.
- Children are being seen alone in these cases, and the views of children and parents are well considered and recorded.
- Where children and families have been subject to a child protection plan and risk reduces, appropriate and timely decisions have been made for children to come off plans in the majority of cases seen.
- The local authority is appropriately focused on improving the quality of plans and planning for children.
- The audited cases tracked demonstrate recent improvements in social work practice.
However, the quality of assessments remains variable. In the cases seen, assessments are superficial and lack information about the ethnicity and identity of families. Families speaking with inspectors during the visit said that their contact with children’s social care had been initially poor but had been improving recently.
“Although the timeliness of child protection reviews and practice is improving from a low base, initial child protection conferences, social work visits to children and core group meetings do not always happen within the child’s timeframe or within timescales set out in statutory guidance,” said the report.
“Although the responsiveness and challenge of child protection chairs is improving, there is not a consistently robust challenge to drift and delay,” it concluded.