Worcestershire children’s services are making satisfactory progress to improve services for its children and young people, Ofsted has said in a report.
Good progress is being made in the areas of assessment and quality assurance, the fifth monitoring visit of the authority since it was judged inadequate in November 2016 added. However, progress in other areas, such as planning for children, is more variable and requires further focused work.
During the course of this visit, inspectors reviewed the progress made in the area of children subject to child protection and child in need assessments and plans.
“The local authority’s senior leaders and elected members have a realistic understanding of progress,” said the report. “They are aware that much work remains to be done in some areas to ensure that children receive good services.”
Political interest and investment in children’s social care services remain high priorities, providing the additional resources required for senior managers to implement change. The local authority has implemented a strong recruitment strategy that offers good financial and practical support to new social work staff. As a result, and since the last monitoring visit, the authority has been successful in recruiting a large number of social workers.
The report highlighted that:
- Management structures have been enhanced and social workers’ caseloads have been reduced.
- The role and use of advanced social work practitioners are helping to further embed a culture of reflection and learning.
- Children are now experiencing more stability, with fewer changes of social worker, and this enables them to build positive relationships.
- The morale of both managers and social workers is positive.
- Social workers reported that supervision was regular and reflective.
- Assessments that have commenced in the last eight months are consistently of a good quality and are an area in which practice has improved.
The local authority has invested significantly in a strength-based model of intervention for working with children and families. All staff have received the basic training, with more detailed training planned.
Worcestershire has also developed a whole-system approach to quality assurance, with several avenues for checking user experience being explored, including manager peer audits that are also moderated independently.
However, for children in need where cases have been open longer than six months, the local authority is aware that there is a legacy of drift and delay and is completing a review of all children in need cases. Further, planning for children continues to be an area of practice that requires further improvement. Plans for children are not always focused on their needs, and there is a lack of clarity about what needs to be achieved to ensure positive outcomes.
“The local authority is currently in the process of changing its model of social work practice. It is introducing a strength-based model and this has been received favourably by some social workers, who report that it benefits their practice. However, some cases evidenced inconsistent practice because social workers are using a range of different assessment templates. In some cases, the strength-based assessment template is not fully used, with significant amounts of information being put into the recommendations and rationale box,” the report concluded.