Managers at a children’s services trust are not doing enough to tackle weaknesses in social work practice, leading to inconsistent support for looked-after children, Ofsted has found.
A monitoring visit to Slough Children’s Services Trust, which took place in late September, noted improvements but found that the pace of change at the trust was too slow, with children receiving “inconsistent” support. The contrast between the strongest and weakest practice with children remained “too great”, inspectors said.
The visit, which focused on services for looked-after children, was the fourth since inspectors deemed the trust ‘inadequate’ in February 2016. The trust was set up in 2015 after the government took Slough children’s services out of council control in the wake of two successive inadequate judgments.
Key actions within plans were not carried out in good time for some children, inspectors found. Plans tended to falter when children’s switched social workers, Ofsted found, with one child not being visited for four months.
While supervision was regular, records sometimes lacked clear actions and timescales. Practice meetings within the children’s trust’s ‘hubs’ did not always highlight delays or practice deficits, and, where they did, managers did not always act swiftly enough to address these weaknesses, inspectors said.
The monitoring report also said that joint working between children’s social care and legal services in Slough needed to improve. “Legal planning and public law outline (PLO) meeting minutes are of variable quality, and do not always outline key decisions alongside timescales for actions to be completed,” Ofsted said.
On a more positive note, inspectors found that oversight and challenge by independent reviewing officers (IROs) had got better, that children were well matched with foster carers and their health needs were well assessed.
They also noted that the workforce in Slough appeared to be stabilising, with fewer staff leaving and the numbers of agency social workers decreasing. But despite this, Ofsted found, children were still experiencing too many changes in social worker.
“Senior managers are not able to understand this fully because they do not oversee or analyse the number of changes of social worker each child experiences,” inspectors said.
‘Turned a corner’
Slough Children’s Services Trust chief executive Nicola Clemo described the monitoring visit as a “snapshot in time” and said that the trust had “turned a corner” since the inspectors’ visit last month.
“We mustn’t underestimate the great strides we have made and we will now further step up our pace of improvements to make sure we better our offer to vulnerable children and their families,” Clemo said.
“We have a comprehensive action plan, and have, since the visit, set additional key priorities to ensure we can more clearly demonstrate the work that is being done to improve services.”