There is strong corporate leadership at Barking and Dagenham children’s services which enables the authority to improve services to meet the diverse needs of children and their families.
A focussed report by Ofsted found that this scrutiny enables better quality social work practice to embed. In fact, the self-evaluation carried out by senior leaders shows that they know the service well.
“Inspectors found evidence of sound social work practice in the MASH and assessment service, both of which have benefited from innovative actions to secure a more stable workforce. In the cases audited and in all other work considered, the local authority had acted appropriately to safeguard children and keep them safe,” said the report.
- Since the last Ofsted inspection in May 2014, senior leaders and partners have retained a strong focus to improve social work practice. Previous areas of concern within the MASH and assessment service have been tackled effectively.
- The recent changes to early help services, and the very recent investment and implementation of a new electronic case record system, demonstrate promise and improvement.
- Within the cases audited by the local authority, inspectors did not find any children at risk of harm, and appropriate decisions had been taken to safeguard children.
- The MASH model has been strengthened since the previous inspection.
- Children and families are appropriately referred to early help and intervention services.
- There are strong transitional arrangements in place between the emergency duty team and the day service.
- Strategy discussions are timely and almost all cases considered by inspectors were well attended by relevant professionals.
- Where decisions are made to carry out section 47 enquiries, children and families are visited quickly and their views sought to ensure appropriate decision-making is in place to progress the case to initial child protection conferences.
- Management oversight and supervision of case work in the MASH are clear and embedded, although more variable in the assessment service due to previous management vacancies.
"Staff report that they enjoy working in Barking and Dagenham children’s services as there is a supportive culture, open access to management advice and appropriate training available to them,” said the report.
Inspectors noted multi-agency referrals they considered are not always clear about the nature of concerns and safeguarding risks to children due to limited referral information. Consent is not always being routinely gained by referrers. When consent is gained in the MASH, it is not always clearly recorded in case records. Managers are confident that the new electronic management system will provide opportunities to improve practice in this area.
In order to improve social work practice, the quality of referrals from partner agencies is not always comprehensive enough to identify the level of professional concern. This has a detrimental effect on some children as there is a delay in the delivery of services to them.
The use of qualitative information and auditing to inform practice developments does not yet drive and monitor further practice improvements. Management oversight and supervision of case work in the assessment service are not consistently recorded in case records, which inhibits the understanding of what is working well to improve outcomes for children and measure whether such progress is sufficiently timely.
Inspectors conclude that the thresholds between statutory services and early help services should be monitored during the bedding in of the new early help structures.