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Worcestershire improves services for children who go missing

Worcestershire has made progress in improving its services for children and young people who are at risk from sexual exploitation and those children and young people who go missing, according to Ofsted.

Children at risk of child sexual exploitation and going missing are proactively worked with in order to identify and reduce risk, the seventh and final monitoring visit of the local authority since it was judged inadequate in November 2016 found.

"As a result of a more effective approach to children going missing, overall numbers of children going missing and repeat missing episodes have reduced. Social workers know their children well. Reflective supervision is aiding a better understanding of children’s lives and vulnerabilities," said the report.

In other areas of exploitation, including gangs, drugs and county lines, the local authority was able to describe how practice and systems for identification of risk and information-sharing are being developed by the local authority and its partners, but these are not yet fully implemented and utilised.

Inspectors evaluated the local authority’s arrangements for the protection of children and young people vulnerable to child sexual exploitation and who go missing from home or care. Inspectors considered other relevant aspects of adolescent vulnerability, including contextual safeguarding.

Inspectors highlighted:

- The local authority has increased its workforce capacity to ensure a more effective and timely response when children go missing.

- Partnership working between the police and social workers for children vulnerable to sexual exploitation and going missing is increasingly well developed.

- Social workers know their children and have built trusted and open relationships with them. A social media application is being used to facilitate communication with some children.

- Social workers value the support they receive from team managers and within their teams.

- Caseloads for most social workers are manageable and enable social workers to know children they are working with well.

- Management oversight is not as consistently good as it should be and has yet to result in consistently good enough practice by social workers.

- Supervision is regular and is increasingly reflective, using a strengths-based model of intervention to better understand children’s lives and areas of vulnerability.

- Supervision is regular and is increasingly reflective, using a strengths-based model of intervention to better understand children’s lives and areas of vulnerability.

- The local authority’s approach to and process for case auditing is good.

However, the report stated that assessments do not fully capture the risks and vulnerabilities experienced by all young people. This means that for some young people there may be risks that are not fully assessed.

Delays in holding multi-agency child exploitation (MACE) meetings mean that concerns and intelligence in relation to child sexual exploitation are not always effectively shared in a timely way with the multi-agency group, which means that risks cannot be reduced as quickly as they could be.

Care and pathway plans are not always up to date. Too many vulnerable young people are not in education, training or employment, which increases their vulnerability. Some foster carers do not have the necessary skills and resilience to care for children who repeatedly go missing.

"Consistency of practice and management oversight needs to improve further to ensure that all assessments and plans for vulnerable children at risk of child sexual exploitation and going missing reflect the risks and vulnerabilities and are effective in addressing these," the report concluded.

Worcestershire monitoring report

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