Poor supervision, inadequate training and high caseloads are preventing social workers from protecting children from sexual exploitation, Ofsted has found.
In its thematic report of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in eight local authorities following the Rotherham scandal, the watchdog found out how poor supervision and, in one case, very high social work caseloads are putting children at risk from CSE.
“The quality of supervision offered to social workers in CSE cases was seen to be consistently good in only two of the eight local authorities inspected,” the report found.
Overall, inspectors discovered arrangements to tackle CSE were underdeveloped, while a number of local authorities had only begun to address the issue at a strategic level in the last 12 months. This is despite statutory guidance being published five years ago.
While it complimented the quality of training given, Ofsted raised concerns that training is, “not reaching everyone who needs it”, and how that is leaving professionals working with vulnerable children unequipped to identify CSE.
Some staff said high caseloads were preventing them from attending training in CSE, while it was also acknowledged by senior managers how caseloads were preventing social workers from engaging effectively with young people to reduce risk.
“Young people at risk not given sufficient priority”
Ofsted was critical of how some young people known to be at risk of CSE were being supported as children in need, because these cases were then being monitored “less robustly than child protection or looked-after children plans”.
“This meant that young people at risk of CSE were not given sufficient priority, risks did not reduce and intervention was often ineffective,” Ofsted found.
The report reviewed 141 cases and spoke to at least 200 professionals and 157 young people. This included those from the cases reviewed by inspectors, groups who met with inspectors and young people in concurrent children’s homes inspections.
Inspectors did find good practice across the local authorities and complimented social workers clearly listening to, and acting appropriately about, the experiences and thoughts of young people.
One young person said: “She didn’t just help me she helped my mum too” about the experience they had with their social worker.
However, other young people raised concerns about the turnover of social workers they worked with, one young person said they had nine social workers in as many years and was finding it hard to trust adults.
Ofsted recommends all councils and partner agencies develop a CSE action plan, that managers oversee all individual CSE cases and that every child returning from a missing episode is given a return interview to gather intelligence and information on risk in the area.