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Torbay remains inadequate, finds Ofsted

A re-inspection of children's services at Torbay has judged them to be inadequate.

Some improvements have been made, but not enough, and all judgements from the 2015 Ofsted inspection apart from the adoption judgement are unchanged, said Ofsted.

"The quality of practice ranges across and within services, from areas showing serious weaknesses, such as fostering, to pockets of strong, focused work, such as early help. Overall, the pace of change has been too slow and some recommendations from the previous inspection are not met," said the report.

"Fundamental weaknesses remain in management oversight and supervision and in identification of and response to risk, as well as workforce development and capacity," it added.

The quality of performance data has improved since the last inspection, but managers at all levels do not demonstrate understanding and urgency to take action when practice weaknesses are evident.

However, political support and financial investment in children’s services are showing some improvements. Links between the chief executive, lead member and the DCS are strong and lines of accountability are well established. The workforce is becoming more stable, and extra agency staff, over and above ‘establishment’, have been employed to cover staff absence and ensure that caseloads reduce.

"Inspectors met some very skilled and committed social workers," said the report.

Services for children and families in need of help and protection have not improved enough from the inadequate judgement of 2015. Risks of long-term chronic neglect or domestic abuse for some children are not recognised or addressed soon enough.

Ofsted highlighted:

- The quality of social work practice is adversely affected by frequent changes of social workers, all of whom are dealing with a range of complex cases.

- The quality of assessments and plans are poor, and, until very recently, legal action has not been instigated soon enough to remove some children from risk of harm.

- Permanence is not secured soon enough for many children awaiting formal approval for long-term fostering or special guardianship orders (SGO).

- Quality assurance arrangements are underdeveloped.

However, inspectors said the adoption service is good. Permanence is considered early and there are increasing numbers of children living in fostering for adoption placements.

Some improvements have been made in help and protection services, such as decision-making in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and the development of effective early help services. Improvements are also evident in both the disabled children’s service and emergency duty service, which provide a robust response to immediate safeguarding concerns.

Ofsted makes a number of recommendations that Torbay should prioritise including how the authority should:

- Take immediate action to ensure that supervision and management oversight, including that of independent reviewing officers (IRO) and child protection (CP) chairs, are strengthened and that all work is recorded appropriately and that actions are evaluated and reviewed routinely.

- Take immediate action to ensure that children on child protection plans, children in need and children in private fostering arrangements are visited within prescribed timescales and seen alone.

- Take immediate action to ensure that foster care reviews, health assessments and mandatory training are completed in order that carers are equipped to meet children’s needs.

- Improve the quality of assessments and plans for children to ensure that purposeful work takes place to prevent drift.

Torbay re-inspection of children's services

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