Wirral children’s services has made effective efforts to address some of the shortfalls identified in Ofsted’s single inspection framework inspection of September 2016 regarding help and protection services, the inspectorate has said.
The quality of assessments at the ‘Integrated Front Door’ system is good although further work is needed to ensure that there is a full contribution from partners and to improve the quality of assessments undertaken by the locality social work teams.
The IFD, a single point of contact for all referrals, has been developed and social work staff review all contacts, apply thresholds consistently and ensure that all children are swiftly diverted to the appropriate level of help. This includes those children who are suitable for early help services below the threshold of statutory intervention, Ofsted found in the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was rated as inadequate in September 2016.
The report highlighted:
- Experienced and knowledgeable social workers and managers respond to all contacts in a timely way.
- Thresholds are well understood and applied, ensuring that children are referred to the right place to receive help and support.
- Decision-making is clear and well recorded.
- The quality and appropriateness of threshold decision-making is tested on a weekly basis at multi-disciplinary meetings, leading to remedial action where necessary.
- The co-location of multi-disciplinary staff within the IFD enables frequent discussions and appropriate information sharing about children.
However, there continues to be delay in police notifications regarding domestic abuse incidents being reviewed and referred to social work staff because of insufficient police within the IFD. A small number of children are left living in situations of unassessed risk when risks exist, but are not identified in the original incident report. This leads to some children not receiving the support they need quickly enough and demonstrates little improvement since the inspection over 12 months ago, which found a delay in police notifications to the MASH ranging from three days to four weeks.
The report also notes that when children who are at risk of significant harm are referred, the IFD responds quickly, and effective multi-agency strategy meetings take place. Information sharing is effective, but investigations often result in professionals working in parallel with each other rather than undertaking effective joint working.
The quality of assessments undertaken with children is not yet consistently good. Those completed by social workers in the IFD are generally stronger, with good consideration of historical information and good quality contributions from partner agencies. Assessments completed by locality teams are consistently weaker, with poor consideration of a child’s history or their lived experience, even when this includes periods subject to protection plans or being in care.
The report concludes that children who go missing from home or care receive a prompt, thorough and sensitive follow-up service from the contracted third sector provider, in partnership with statutory agencies.