Birmingham children’s services is improving but “significant concerns” remain about children being left at risk due to child protection plans ending too early, Ofsted reports.
A monitoring visit by the inspectorate found reduced caseloads and use of agency staff, which Ofsted said had improved the consistency and stability of relationships between social workers and families.
The average number of care proceedings a month in Birmingham was also found to have fallen significantly during this year, which Ofsted attributed to a more robust parenting assessment and support service.
Second child protection plans
But inspectors remained concerned about child protection plans ending early and the rising number of children winding up with a second child protection plan at the inadequate-rated local authority.
In November 2016 29% of child protection plans ended after three months but this has now risen to 37%.
The proportion of children who end up with a second child protection has gone up from 21.7% in 2016 to 24% compared to an average of 18.7% across England.
“More work needs to be done to ensure that plans end only when risk has clearly been reduced and when improvement can be sustained,” said inspectors in their monitoring visit report.
Lack of attendance
Ofsted was also critical of how school nurses, substance misuse workers and other professionals “too often” fail to attend child protection review conferences.
It said the chairs of review conferences were not doing enough to challenge these absences and in some cases were proceeding with the conference despite the necessary attendance.
“These weaknesses lead to decisions being made without appropriate information, at times, and without access to the skills and experiences of other professionals,” it warned.
Councillor Carl Rice, the cabinet member for children, families and schools at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is pleasing that Ofsted has again confirmed our steady progress; staff are working very hard to ensure that children and families most in need are helped and supported.
“As with previous monitoring reports, we know there is still more to do as we continue to embed good practice, but we are pleased that the commitment and enthusiasm of our social workers is once again recognised.”
Birmingham children’s services has been rated inadequate since 2009 and is due to be placed under the control of an independent children’s trust in April.