Manchester has a strong and established leadership team that is supported by political and corporate leaders, Ofsted has said.
Effective and collaborative partnership working has supported the implementation of several significant changes and continuously monitors the impact of these changes on children’s lived experiences.
"The revised quality assurance arrangements now provide a framework to systematically monitor practice improvement. This information is used widely to support strategic planning, and learning and development for staff. Leaders and managers have acted swiftly when changes are identified. An example of this was when performance in relation to the retention of staff highlighted an increased number of staff leaving the local authority after two years; prompt action was taken to review the recruitment and retention strategy and a new proposal has been approved by senior managers," said the report.
The local authority’s self-assessment, completed in October 2019, provides examples of how progress has been made against most of the areas identified for improvement at the previous inspection. Senior leaders are appropriately aware that some practice requires further strengthening.
The report of the focused visit which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for providing help and protection for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan, said:
- Leaders and managers know both the areas of strengths and the areas for improvement in their service.
- A strengthened quality assurance framework means that leaders and managers are better able to systematically monitor practice improvements.
- Leaders quickly respond to information and concerns highlighted through performance management and quality assurance activity.
- Social workers see the children who they are working with when it is right for the child. They know them well and clearly articulate children’s experiences, needs and the planning that is in place for children.
- Assessments of children’s needs are mostly timely, detailed in the description of what is happening and clearly set out ‘worries’ and ‘what is working well’. When assessments of children’s needs are good, they explore the child’s history and the impact on their lived experience.
- The needs of children with a disability are thoroughly assessed and, where necessary, child in need or child protection plans are in place.
- When children live in households with lots of brothers and sisters, their individual needs are considered as part of the child and family assessment.
- Partnership working is a strength. Professionals share information well to inform assessments of children’s needs and review meetings, and they engage in key decision-making to manage and reduce risks for children.
- Child in need meetings, core group meetings and review child protection conferences take place regularly and are well attended by partners.
- For most children, the threshold for intervention is reviewed when their circumstances change.
- Social workers engage well with children and use a significant range of useful tools and professional support to help them create innovative and effective ways of working with them.
- Social workers have a good awareness of the diversity in the communities they work with and conscientiously ensure that they understand and support cultural differences.
- The complex safeguarding hub in Manchester is a strength.
- There is a clear management footprint on children’s written case records. Supervision is regular and highly valued. Social workers told us that the reflective discussions they have with their managers help them to plan for children.
However, for a small number of children assessments do not always fully explore their previous experiences and are not always updated when a child’s circumstances change. Too many assessments of children’s needs and circumstances lack a critical analysis of the information gathered and the impact of this on children, their families and planning for future interventions.
Not all children with a profound disability are supported by this specialist service, and it was not possible to evidence how senior managers are ensuring equity of provision for this group of vulnerable children. Social workers and team managers told inspectors that they are not aware of the criteria for transferring children’s case management to the specialist children with disabilities team.
Child and family assessments could be strengthened through more in-depth exploration and consideration of what it is like for the child to live in their household.
Children’s written plans require significant input to ensure that they are succinct, clearly written and understandable for parents, children and other professionals.
Too many plans include actions that are process-led, too generic, lack realistic timescales and use too much social work jargon. This means that families and professionals may not always be clear about what is expected of them, why they need to change or when change is expected to happen. Too many children’s plans focus on the actions required of the social worker and the parent/s and do not provide a sufficient understanding of the multi-agency responsibility to contribute to effective child in need or child protection planning. This makes it difficult for professionals and families to review progress and the impact of their work on children’s experiences. For a small number of children, this has caused some unnecessary delay in achieving positive change.
The letters sent to parents to initiate pre-proceedings work are not written in a way that promotes the local authority’s relationship-based approach to work alongside families. The language used in the letters is too complex and at times overly authoritative. The letters do not include what previous support the family has received and any analysis of the impact of this work.
However, the written supervision records of the reflective discussions staff have with their managers to help them to plan for children do not always reflect this. When reflective discussions are recorded, this helps social workers to understand the management oversight and direction.
"Social workers like working in Manchester; they report accessible and good management support and access to appropriate learning and development. The morale of the staff seen during this visit is good," the report concluded.
Manchester should improve the critical analysis of information available to social workers when completing an assessment of children’s needs and using this to inform further involvement.
The quality of children’s written records needs improvement and letters sent to parents before proceedings should be written in a style that is clear about the process and expectations for parents and are not unnecessarily authoritative in their tone.
Focused visit to Manchester local authority children’s services