Social workers are making progress in improving the quality of care assessments given to vulnerable children.
An Ofsted survey of care assessments, published today, found improvements in the effectiveness and timeliness of the assessments by children and families social workers but said more still needs to be done.
The survey reached its conclusions after examining 123 cases in 10 local authorities and canvassing the views of children, parents, carers and professionals on the quality of assessments for children in need.
The report points towards a steady improvement since Ofsted raised concerns about poor quality assessments for children and families in its 2012/13 annual social care report.
Social workers were found to be talking and listening to children when doing their analysis in the majority of cases, and in 63% of cases, assessments were carried out promptly.
Social workers were also not waiting for an assessment to be complete before offering help to children and families, Ofsted’s inspectors reported.
The watchdog highlighted strong leadership that prioritises training, development and supportive supervision for social workers as a key factor in improving assessment quality.
“Robust performance monitoring and quality assurance systems enabled leaders to evaluate and improve their assessment practice. Staff morale was high and turnover low,” the report said.
Ofsted chief inspector Michael Wilshaw called the findings “encouraging”.
“However, there is still more to do before we can be assured that all children and families are receiving the high standards of care required,” he said. “As our report shows, good quality assessment is predicated on the local authority and other agencies ensuring that there is an accurate and ongoing assessment of need so that children and families are supported every step of the way.”
Common areas where local authorities struggled include assessments not being timely enough and significant delays in accessing child and adolescent mental health services, said the report.
Social workers also did not routinely share written assessments with families or children, and often used jargon and unclear language when they did, which made things more difficult for families.
Inspectors were also concerned by how a fifth of support plans (21%) did not clearly demonstrate the help that children and their families would receive, and how the best interests of children would be the greatest priority.