A local authority has been praised for its response to child neglect and for ensuring manageable caseloads and flexible working for its social workers.
A Joint Targeted Area Inspection in Stockton-on-Tees, which inspected the multi-agency responses to neglect, highlighted the council’s “mature and successful” approach to workforce management.
The report by Ofsted, Care Quality Commission and Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services inspectors said: “The council is investing in supporting its social workers in more flexible working through the provision of tablets and smart phones. As a result of this and other measures, such as ‘Step Up to Social Work’, ‘Frontline’ and a regional cap on agency social work pay-rates, it has secured a stable and appropriately experienced workforce.”
It praised “strong and effective leadership” in children’s services, which had driven child-focused practice in response to neglect.
“Effective engagement with partner agencies at a strategic level means that the local authority is progressively exercising system leadership that is enhancing services for children.”
‘Good social worker development’
The report cited a good development packages for social workers, which included “formal training, less formal drop-in sessions and good access to a range of online research through a respected national provider”.
“With a strong focus on neglect, and on enhancing child focus and analysis through the family work model, this is helping to ensure that social workers have the right skills and knowledge,” the report said.
The council had invested in newly qualified social workers and early help workers to work in ‘step across’ roles for engaging parents when neglect had been assessed.
“These professionals work with families subject to assessment alongside the child’s allocated social worker and can remain involved should statutory social work involvement in the children’s cases close. Early feedback from parents is positive,” the report said.
The report concluded local agencies had a “strong shared commitment to tackling neglect”, but it needed to improve the “resilience” of partnership teams after staff sickness and capacity issues in health services caused it to become a “virtual partner” for several months.
Attendance of children at child protection conferences was not at a level it could be, it added, and supervision and managerial overview for cases of child neglect on child in need plans was not as effective as those on child protection plans.