A council is not representing children’s views in many social work assessments because workloads mean practitioners are struggling to manage “competing priorities”, an in-depth inspection into neglect has found.
The joint–targeted area inspection analysing agency responses to neglect in Peterborough found social workers had “limited” time to spend with families.
“[Practitioners] manage competing priorities and, as a result, too many case records have little information about children and their views,” the report by Ofsted, Care Quality Commission and inspectors of police and probation services found.
However, it said the quality of assessments in children’s social care was improving and concluded that partner agencies, coordinated by the local safeguarding board, were working effectively to identify and respond to neglect.
“When children are assessed as being in need of help and support, they are the subject of multi-agency child in need plans, led by support workers who bring a range of appropriate knowledge and skills.
“This ensures that effective services are offered to support children who are experiencing neglect. This work is overseen, supported and reviewed by experienced, qualified social workers and managers, who authorise plans,” the inspection report said.
It added that a focus on recruitment and retention meant there was a more stable workforce in Peterborough, giving social workers better opportunities to know children better.
However, it found plans and interventions for children suffering from neglect “often lack focus and impact”.
“Assessments do not address the underlying causes or impact of neglect, and care planning is not outcome focused, clear or measurable. As a result, some children are experiencing neglect for too long before any change takes place,” the report said.
While the local safeguarding children’s board had developed a multi-agency neglect strategy, launched in September 2016, a lack of performance information meant agencies’ ability to monitor progress was “limited”.
“Currently there is too little improvement in levels of awareness of neglect, and limited effective use of resources and tools to identify its impact among frontline practitioners,” the report said.
To improve responses to neglect, an integrated multi-agency safeguarding hub with Cambridgeshire council was established last month, and Peterborough is beginning work to implement Hertfordshire’s family safeguarding model.
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, executive director for people and communities in Peterborough, welcomed the report’s findings.
“There is lots of good joint working to deliver services for children, strong leadership and a commitment to identify new and creative ways of working, but we know there are areas we need to focus on to improve the way we support and protect children who are being neglected, and work is already ongoing in these areas to raise standards. The fact the inspectors found our own self-assessment of children’s services to be an accurate reflection reassures me that we are heading in the right direction.
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