Ofsted has highlighted “sustained progress” at a children’s services department taken over by a mutual earlier this year.
After Sunderland Council’s children’s services department was judged inadequate in June 2015, it set up Together for Children to deliver children’s services functions on behalf of the council, including early help, social care and education services for children.
In the fifth monitoring visit since Sunderland Council was judged inadequate, Ofsted noted “evidence of progress in many areas, including the timeliness of decision-making on contacts and referrals, improved management oversight and better staff stability in some teams”.
The integrated contact and referral team (ICRT) provides a timely and effective response to contacts through effective information sharing, clearly recorded decision-making and management oversight. This results in swift referrals for assessment and appropriate signposting to early help services.
- In the most recent assessments, the quality of work is clearly improving.
- Statutory visits are timely.
- Staff receive supervision on a regular basis. Case discussion is, in the main, detailed.
- The ‘Missing, sexually exploited and trafficked’ intelligence group provides good oversight and enhances local responses to children at risk of sexual exploitation.
- Comprehensive performance data ensures that TfC has oversight of key areas of practice and performance.
“Overall, the stability of the workforce has improved within ICRT, and all posts are now covered by permanent staff. However, within the assessment team the use of agency staff is still high, at 50%,” said the report.
However, Ofsted warned that the quality and timeliness of assessments are not consistent due to the reliance on agency staff. Despite the improvements in the most recent assessments, the majority of children’s plans are not good enough to ensure that their needs are met.
Domestic violence is a key factor in referrals to ICRT and in the high number of re-referrals. There is a range of services available, including new initiatives such as the national pilot of the ‘Change that lasts’ model. However, despite these initiatives and the wide range of services, TfC knows that services are not sufficiently coordinated to meet local needs across Sunderland.