A council where managers are “too focused on compliance” has been rated as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted inspectors.
In an inspection report published this week, Ofsted said services in Rochdale had shown improvement in some areas, especially in services for looked-after children and care leavers, but management oversight was too focused on compliance and performance data.
“Leaders are over-reliant on performance data to evaluate services. Data is used well to identify possible weakness, but the evaluation of casework that follows is not good quality and does not lead to detailed understanding of the improvement needed,” the report said.
It added: “There is a continued focus on measuring compliance rather than quality of practice.”
It warned that many children were “stepped down to lower levels of support too early” and had left some children “experiencing neglect or living with domestic abuse for too long”.
“When children suffer long-term neglect or live in households in which there is domestic abuse, there is evidence of social workers and managers being overly optimistic about the situation,” the report said.
Inspectors noted how the council was quick to respond to areas of poor practice identified by this and previous inspections, which had led to services for looked-after children and care leavers to be rated ‘good’.
“Children benefit from good support to meet their needs from a range of agencies as part of their care planning. This support is helping them and improving their experience,” inspectors found.
The council was committed to placing brothers and sisters together, which resulted in very few family groups being separated, the report said. It added children had appropriate contact with families which was well planned, and the level of contact was determined by the needs of children.
Gail Hopper, director of children’s services in Rochdale, said the success of the children in care and care leavers service followed the council making it a priority and instilling the importance of employees’ corporate parenting role into every member of staff.
Hopper added: “Ofsted also highlighted how the council provides a strong multi-agency response for children and adult survivors of sexual exploitation. The service, developed with partners like Greater Manchester Police, is recognised as a model that other local authorities can learn from.
“However, we also recognise that we are still on a journey and that there are areas that we need to improve on. That includes strengthening the role management play in improving the quality of our work with children and families, which remains variable in a number of areas. In that sense, this report will be used to further inspire in getting closer to our goal of being rated as good overall,” she said.
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