Children’s outcomes ‘not maximised’ despite improvement to ’inadequate’ service, Ofsted finds

A council was praised by inspectors for timely intervention but raised concerns at inconsistent quality of plans for children

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By Lauren Brown

Ofsted inspectors have found progress in an ‘inadequate’ children’s services but expressed ongoing concerns about children’s outcomes.

The monitoring inspection of Birmingham’s children’s services, which took place in March, found children were taken into care appropriately and promptly by the local authority.

Inspectors found a more stable workforce and lower caseloads in the service had enabled improved social work practice in services for looked-after children.

However, inspectors highlighted inconsistencies in the quality of care plans and stressed that greater improvement was needed across the board.

The best plans for children clearly outlined timelines for the children, parents and carers involved, which enabled good outcomes, inspectors said. However, “in a significant number of cases” relevant partners had not made necessary contributions to children’s care planning, which meant the potential for children’s outcomes could be “delayed or not maximised”.

“Progress has been made in successfully challenging some of these issues, but [independent reviewing officers] and social work staff need to be more consistent in doing this,” the report said.

Social work practice around identifying children’s strengths was praised by inspectors.

“Almost all know the children’s histories and this is evident in the detailed direct work completed with them. This is used to identify effectively children’s needs and provide the support they require.”

‘Needs to move without delay’

Despite this, managers were not consistently identifying the impact of practice on the child. Inspectors said better supervision would link points of discussion more productively to the child’s long-term outcome.

While partnerships with some services such as ‘Forward Thinking’, the NHS provider of mental health provision for children, had improved, it warned that important voices, such as schools and health visitors, were often absent during reviews.

Inspectors warned: “The local authority now needs to move without delay towards consistently evaluating these areas if it is to progress further and support staff in embedding the link between a good quality of practice and improved outcomes for children.”

Alastair Gibbons, director of operations at Birmingham Children’s Trust, was pleased with the overall judgement and in a statement emphasised the steady progress being made by the local authority. He said: “There is always more to do but we have once again from Ofsted tangible evidence of the progress we are making. I would like to thank all staff for their dedicated work with children in the city.”

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