Social workers are being placed “under pressure” as a result of poor police notifications to the multi-agency safeguarding hub, an inspection of Poole’s children’s services has found.
Inspectors found social workers in the council’s hub were placed under pressure due to having to gather “unnecessary information” following police notifications that did not meet the threshold for social care.
Ofsted rated children’s services in Poole as ‘require improvement to be good’ overall, but said thresholds for referrals to social care were generally well understood and applied by partners.
It added that responses to referrals were generally effective and the risks were well managed, but concluded that parental consent was not routinely recorded. Inspectors recommended the council ensure sufficient resources for the hub, to ensure professionals had the capacity to share information in a timely manner.
Inspectors praised the senior leadership team who had worked “purposefully with partners to implement a number of systemic changes to sustain and improve outcomes for children”.
However, these outcomes were inconsistent, and despite strengths in adoption and care leaver performance weaknesses had emerged in child protection and looked-after children services.
“Senior managers know that there is still work to do to strengthen many aspects of social work practice to make it consistently good,” the report said.
Poole’s improvement plan had led to a reduction in social workers’ caseloads and the workforce was stable, Ofsted found, but quality assurance activity had not yet led to improved outcomes for children for all children because of “inconsistent management oversight”.
The report said: “Regular supervision takes place for the vast majority of social workers, but the quality is variable and not yet sufficiently reflective to challenge ineffective practice.
“Weak management oversight and some poor practice in the out-of-hours service have left some children vulnerable.”
Recommendations for Poole council included improving contingency planning in child protection and child in need cases and increasing the effectiveness of management oversight by ensuring decisions and actions are clearly recorded within children’s case files.
Mike White, cabinet portfolio holder for Children and Young People in the council welcomed the strengths Ofsted found in the service.
“It’s particularly pleasing that the inspectors recognised the great work of our social workers in listening to children when helping those families in need of our support,” White said.
“We are committed to improving outcomes for all children in the borough and will use the findings of this report to further raise the standard of our service,” he added.