An ‘inadequate’ council has been told that social workers seeing children during school hours could harm their educational outcomes.
A monitoring inspection of Torbay children’s services child protection processes said social workers were “routinely” seeing children during school hours. While the visits were made with the permission of school staff, they meant children were missing lessons, the report added.
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “It is really important that social workers routinely see children. Equally, inspectors want children to have the chance to learn and reach their full potential and not have their school day unnecessarily disrupted.”
The inspection praised social workers seeing children regularly, alone and having their views reflected well in assessments and care planning arrangements. However, Ofsted said the local authority had not met the expectations of its own action plan for improvements.
While the frequency of social work visits “has improved significantly”, the timeliness of visits as part of a child protection investigation declined in the six months prior to inspection. The local authority said the reason was a recent increase in child protection investigations.
Inspectors praised effective tools used by social workers in practice.
“Social workers routinely use a range of tools…to ensure that they gather the experiences and wishes of children effectively,” the report said.
It added that social workers are proactive in their attempts to engage absent fathers in assessment and planning processes, and this was contributing to positive outcomes for children.
It concluded that – while key weaknesses remain – there are signs of improvement. However, the quality of assessments and plans for children were still too variable.
“Based on the evidence gathered during visit, inspectors identified areas of strength, areas where improvement is occurring, and some areas where progress has been much slower and has not met the expectations in the local authority’s action plan.”