A council is making progress improving its children’s services but a series of problems, including poor quality care plans, must be addressed, Ofsted has found.
Inspectors said Telford and Wrekin’s services ‘requires improvement’ after a visit in June and July found services were not consistently good.
Care plans across child protection, child in need and looked after children teams lacked ‘detail, clarity and timescales’, the inspectors found. This meant it was not always clear who was expected to do what by when and made it difficult to measure progress and improve outcomes. Some plans failed to analyse or effectively use children’s histories and views.
“The voices of children, although recorded, are not always well used to understand their experience or to inform planning,” inspectors found, although they said the increasing use of evidence-based approaches and tools to get a better sense of children’s day-to-day experiences was positive.
Responses to long-term risks such as neglect and domestic violence were slow, Ofsted found. This had led to children remaining in harmful situations too long and entering care in an ’emergency’.
“In too many cases seen by inspectors, the local authority already knew about the presenting issues that led to the crisis. Earlier action could have been taken if patterns of risk had been identified,” Ofsted’s report said.
Inconsistency in the quality and frequency of management oversight contributed to these delays, inspectors warned. They recommended the council should ensure staff get regular supervision and direction from line managers.
Other findings from the report included:
- IRO process: Independent reviewing officers had significantly higher caseloads than recommended in statutory guidance. This should be reduced so IROs can “effectively drive” reviews for looked-after children and ensure section 20 arrangements and placements with parents are appropriate
- Permanence: There was a lack of urgency where routes to permanence other than adoption are sought. Inspectors found progress often depended on the individual social worker.
- Multi-agency working: The council’s multi-agency safeguarding hub was an effective single contact point and responded “swiftly” to risk. However the focus on pace meant strategy meetings routinely only involved police when they would be better informed with more partners such as health services.
- CSE and radicalisation: Telford and Wrekin was a “champion” in its tackling of child sexual exploitation and its work with young people at risk of radicalisation was “mature, well-coordinated, and integrated into the broader offer.”
The council’s adoption service was rated as good and inspectors praised social workers for identifying children who could benefit from adoption early and swiftly matching them with adopters.
Telford’s service for care leavers was also rated ‘good’. Inspectors noted that staff were quick to adapt plans when young people’s circumstances changed, adding “social workers are persistent in their support for young people and stick with them through their ups and downs.”
The report notes that the council was aware of problem areas and it taking steps to tackle them, for example setting up a permanence panel to improve decision-making and monitoring of this area, but the impact of these had not yet been felt.
Councillor Paul Watling, the council’s cabinet member for children, young people and communities welcomed the recommendations. He said: “This is a really positive report that mirrors what we already knew. We have made plenty of good progress since the last inspection and there are just a few key areas for us to focus on and improve.”