Inspectors have praised strong leadership and workforce planning in a re-inspection of Manchester children’s services which found the council was no longer rated ‘inadequate’.
The re-inspection report, published today, said the council had recruited 40% more frontline social workers to the locality and permanence teams, which had reduced the average number of cases allocated to each social worker, and the “heavy reliance” on agency staff.
However, some newly qualified social workers had “higher caseloads than expected by national guidelines”.
Services in Manchester now ‘require improvement to be good’, whereas they were considered ‘inadequate’ by inspectors in 2014. As a result of the inspection, the government has lifted an improvement notice it placed on the council.
“Leaders and managers focus relentlessly on improving practice across all teams. This has made a positive and discernible difference to the help, protection and care experienced by the most vulnerable children,” the report found.
“Social workers have identified a more positive and engaging culture and working environment since the last inspection, which gives them a greater sense of confidence,” the report added.
‘Action to tackle poor performance’
Ofsted noted that social workers were “very positive” about working in Manchester, and that most had an up-to-date annual appraisal identifying achievements and areas for development.
Inspectors did note that some first- and second-line managers were not always “sufficiently rigorous in challenging, monitoring and driving social work practice to ensure that all services are consistently good”.
This resulted in drift and delay in action on some cases, however it said senior leaders were taking “successful action to tackle poor performance and the creation of additional posts are making a substantive difference to the quality of the service”.
‘Requires improvement means exactly that’
Sheila Newman, executive member for children’s services for Manchester city council, said: “This endorsement is the result of commitment, focus and sheer hard work by everyone involved in this process – from senior officers and members to frontline staff.
“This inspection result is a cause for satisfaction but not celebration. This is not the end of our improvement journey and there is absolutely no room for complacency. ‘Requires improvement’ means exactly that.
“We said at the time of the last inspection that we would not rest until services were rated ‘good’ and we remain firmly fixed on that goal. We are making clear progress, but we are determined to keep improving to ensure we are delivering the best possible services for our young people.
“We know what we need to get there, have plans in place and our focus now is pressing on with them.”