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Support to children in care at Worcestershire is improved, says Ofsted

The quality of support offered to children in care at Worcestershire has improved since the last inspection of children’s services in November 2016, according to Ofsted.

The sixth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged to be inadequate in November 2016 found a recent service restructure has increased access to management support for social workers.

"The local authority uses legal processes and care proceedings effectively," said the report. "This protects children and ensures that timely plans are implemented in order to secure their long-term future when they are exposed to significant harm."

"Care proceedings are only initiated when they are in a child’s best interest. The local authority is taking steps to improve their edge of care offer, which is currently under-developed," it added.

The report found:

- Evidence in proceedings is increasingly robust, with some social workers presenting excellent oral and written evidence.

- Timeliness of proceedings has improved, and the vast majority of care proceedings are now completed within 26 weeks.

- The local authority has appropriately made a concerted effort to ensure that historical cases of chronic neglect and cases where children are voluntarily accommodated are being dealt with in court.

- Assessments have improved in quality, and better practice is well embedded.

- Children’s care plans are reviewed and updated regularly.

- The timeliness and quality of children looked after reviews have improved.

- Supervision and management direction for social workers is improving. Staff find supervision helpful and supportive and supervision is regular and up to date.

However, letters to parents before proceedings do not provide them with sufficient clarity and language is too professionalised. Further, the use of a child sexual exploitation screening tool to assist with risk assessment and planning is not consistently used for children looked after. Despite this, inspectors saw some good examples of social workers addressing child sexual exploitation concerns and keeping children safe.

Inspectors also noted that for a significant minority of children looked after, their educational needs are not sufficiently well met. In addition, too many changes in social workers make it difficult for many children looked after to build trusting relationships. Life-story work is not yet consistently completed for all children looked after, although this is an improving situation.

"Managers try to ensure that workloads are manageable. While most children are seen regularly through statutory visits, visit frequency is not always proportionate to their level of need or enough to build a trusting relationship with a child," the report concluded.

Worcestershire monitoring visit

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