A council has been criticised by Ofsted after it found social workers were “not spending enough time with children” and direct work was “insufficient”.
Inspectors gave Southend council a ‘requires improvement’ rating and said the pace of change in areas where improvement was needed had been “too slow”. Since the council was rated ‘good’ in 2012, “there has been a decline in the quality of services”, Ofsted said.
“In a minority of cases, insufficiently thorough initial checks, and inconsistent information sharing and assessments have resulted in children not receiving the right services as soon as they should,” inspectors found.
While most concerns received an appropriate response, a “very small number of children who have recently become looked after had remained longer than they should in harmful situations because of delays in progressing plans for them”, the report said. It added that for these children, becoming looked after resulted in them being safe.
The inspectors praised staff for keeping in touch with “virtually all” care leavers and enabling them to get help if they needed it, and the workforce was “stable”.
“Few social workers leave the authority and most moves are internal, resulting from promotion or transfers between teams,” the report said. A revision of supervision arrangements had been “positive” for social workers, but management challenges to social workers’ plans for children should be strengthened.
Inspectors acknowledged that the authority was aware of “shortfalls” and regularly audited its own work, but it had been “too slow” in tackling the shortfalls.
Southend should also ensure that thresholds are applied consistently, and that child protection investigations are completed within timescales, Ofsted said.