Walsall children's services has made progress in all areas with recommendations from the last Ofsted inspection that relate to care leavers.
A focused visit from Ofsted looking at the local authority’s arrangements for care leavers, including the preparation of relevant children in care for the transition to adulthood, found the local authority has good awareness of the key strengths and areas for improvement within the service.
"There is a growing corporate sense of responsibility for care leavers. This, in conjunction with the energy and vision created by the new executive director of children’s services and her senior team, is resulting in improving outcomes for care leavers," said the report.
The local authority is keeping in touch with the vast majority of its care leavers, who are in most cases living in suitable accommodation. Increasing numbers of care leavers are actively engaged in education, training or employment.
The report found:
- Children leaving care and care leavers in Walsall benefit from a highly committed and stable staff group of social workers and personal advisers, who know their children well.
- Further investment in the service is being made by the local authority, with two additional personal advisers being recruited in order to reduce caseloads.
- The vast majority of relevant children and care leavers have a timely and effective pathway plan.
- Workers speak highly of their managers and the quality of supervision and support they receive from them and their peers.
- A focus group of children and young people has met regularly to inform the design of the refreshed children in care council.
- Care leavers spoken to feel safe and secure where they live.
- The importance of good mental health and the emotional well-being of care leavers is given appropriate consideration in planning processes by social workers and personal advisers.
However, care leavers do not consistently have access to or understand their full health histories. Local authority performance data shows that 78% of care leavers who turned 18 during 2017/18 have received their health passports. Workers spoken to are not confident that young people have received this, and it is not clear how workers are able to ensure that this has happened.
The report also highlights that care leavers do not have a clear or consistent understanding of their rights and entitlements. Accessible written and virtual information is not readily available.
"Senior leaders recognise that quality assurance arrangements need to improve, and a review is currently under way," said the report. "Audit quality is variable and, although a recent service specific audit has taken place, it is too soon to gauge the impact of this. Learning from audits is not yet sufficiently embedded to contribute to practice improvements or strategic planning."
In order to improve social work practice, Walsall should focus on the accessibility of written and virtual information for care leavers about their rights and entitlements. Care leavers should be helped to understand the significance of their health history and to receive a written copy of their health passport.
Finally, quality assurance arrangements should better inform practice improvement and service development.