Strong and effective leadership and management have led to substantial improvements at Calderdale children's services, an inspection by Ofsted has found.
Both the quality and impact of social work practice has improved since the last Ofsted inspection in 2015, inspectors found.
"Senior managers have created a culture in which staff feel safe and valued, enabling social work to flourish," said the report. "Progress is considerable and sustained, leading to mostly good outcomes for the majority of children in care and care leavers."
- Children are at the heart of decision-making.
- Corporate parenting and grandparenting are significant strengths in Calderdale.
- High aspirations and a tangible determination to help, care for and protect vulnerable children are deep-rooted throughout the local authority.
- Children in care and care leavers receive an outstanding service.
Ofsted rated the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection as requiring improvement to be good, the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is good and the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers was rated outstanding. Overall effectiveness in Calderdale is good, Ofsted said.
Regarding the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, Ofsted found:
- Children in Calderdale benefit from well-coordinated locality-based early help services, with higher level early help accessed through an effective weekly multi-agency panel.
- Child protection enquiries are timely, proportionate and thorough.
- Children exposed to domestic abuse are quickly identified and protected.
- Children at risk of sexual exploitation, and those missing from home and care, receive highly effective multi-agency services delivered with great sensitivity by skilled workers in a dedicated child sexual exploitation team.
- Most children benefit from good-quality planning.
- Some plans focus too much on the needs of adults.
In response to the concerns identified by inspectors, senior leaders carried out an immediate review and took decisive action to address the deficits about safeguarding practice.
In relation to the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers, inspectors highlighted:
- Permanence is a significant strength and the support for young people leaving care is exceptional.
- Decisions about whether children should come into care are underpinned by cogent risk assessments and accessible legal planning, and through a weekly multi-disciplinary ‘gateway’ panel.
- Positive relationships with children and their families is central to social work practice in Calderdale.
- Where it is appropriate, children live with their brothers and sisters, extended family or carers, who provide them with emotional warmth and stability.
- Newly recruited carers, including connected carers and potential adopters, experience an excellent level of preparation and training.
- Calderdale demonstrates its significant commitment as a corporate parent in many ways.
- Persistent, respectful and hugely creative work is enabling an impressive number of young people to access employment, education and training.
In terms of the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families, the Ofsted report highlighted:
- Strong management and leadership have led to considerable improvements in social work practice since the last Ofsted inspection.
- Services for children are protected and have increased in times of austerity, with ongoing political financial commitment.
- The culture in Calderdale is one of reflection, learning and appropriate action.
- Performance management has been significantly strengthened.
- Senior managers have created a culture in which staff feel valued and safe and social work is flourishing. It is evident across all levels of social care that all staff are treated with dignity and kindness.
- Reduced staff turnover and manageable caseloads provide social workers with the opportunities to build trusting relationships with children and their families in order to help make the necessary changes.
In order to improve social work practice, Calderdale should focus on children’s experiences to inform child protection and child in need plans and the quality and timeliness of decision-making at threshold points, particularly at first contact in the MAST, and pre-proceedings.
Calderdale should also ensure planning in strategy meetings and discussions inform next steps and should improve the experience of children who present as homeless.
Diane Wills is Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, responsible for quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
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