Telford and Wrekin Council children's services have been able to demonstrate some progress in the area of permanency planning for children looked after since the last inspection, Ofsted has said.
A focused visit which looked at the local authority’s arrangements for permanence and permanency planning for children looked after by the local authority, found the authority has responded appropriately to the findings of the last inspection, with a focus on strengthening their permanency planning processes.
"This focus has included the creation of an effective permanency panel to monitor and review plans for children," said the report. "The panel has helped to ensure that almost all children looked after now have a permanency plan by their second review."
For most children who require adoption, plans are timely, and children are placed with prospective adopters quickly. The majority of children who remain in care are placed in stable long-term fostering placements.
The local authority is active in considering extended family as connected carers, and, in some but not all cases, it considers whether special guardianship orders are appropriate long-term outcomes. However, a small number of children have not been considered for either SGO or adoption when they could have been.
- Practice in the safeguarding teams is demonstrably of a better quality, and this ensures that almost all children who should be considered for adoption are being considered.
- A fostering to adopt option is now in place and although good use of this was seen, it is not always considered for all suitable children.
- Children looked after reviews are timely and include appropriate multi-agency support and contributions.
- Children are visited by their social workers on a regular basis. Children are seen alone and their views and wishes recorded.
- Where children looked after receiving a service from the children with a disability team, the children are in long-term matched placements that are stable and meet their needs.
- Management oversight and supervision of the majority of children looked after cases are carried out regularly.
However, there is evidence of drift in finalising the permanency plans of a small number of children, often because of changes in or absence of the allocated social worker, which has led to delays in finding permanent living arrangements.
While some challenge is evident by independent reviewing officers (IROs), issues such as the repeated absence of care planning meetings are not challenged effectively or escalated to senior management which means that opportunities to improve the quality of practice are being missed.
In children looked after teams where children have long-term care plans, life-story book work and later-life letters are not being progressed despite repeated requests by managers and IROs during supervision and reviews. Poor social work practice and lack of managerial effectiveness mean that young people may not always be clear about why they are in care or what their history is.
Furthermore, the local authority’s practice evaluation process is not providing an accurate account of the quality of social work practice.
In order to improve social work practice, Telford and Wrekin should concentrate on:
- The consideration of special guardianship orders when children are placed on a long-term or permanent basis with connected carers.
- The oversight of care planning meetings to ensure that all children looked after have their plans progressed without delay and in line with the local authority’s own policy and procedure.
- The provision of life-story work and later-life letters so that all children with long-term fostering plans can understand their histories and the reasons why they are looked after.
- The quality and regularity of supervision so that the cases of all children looked after are considered.
- Opportunities for social workers to reflect on and analyse cases that include complex issues.