Social workers in a local authority have been criticised for the “unacceptable” practice of carrying out ‘screening visits’ to some children and families prior to a referral decision.
Staff in Oldham children’s services would undertake the visit outside of the single assessment process and it would mean “families are being assessed without their knowledge or right to read, comment and have their views recorded”, Ofsted found.
Inspectors said the rationale for the visits was “not clear” and that the authority explained it was an assessment, despite it happening outside of the single assessment process.
Following discussions during the focused visit, Oldham intends to review the use of these visits.
‘Monitor and scrutinise’
The focused visit of the ‘requires improvement’-rated service’s front door for children’s social care found children at risk of significant harm were promptly responded to, child protection investigations were timely, and threshold decisions were applied appropriately for most children.
Managers used a wide range of performance data to monitor and scrutinise front door workflows, and social workers received regular supervision.
“Management direction for allocation of assessments is a particular strength. Case allocation notes are clear and relate to the needs of the child. However, effective management oversight is less evident after allocation,” the review said.
Despite some assessments being “good quality”, a majority failed to include effective consideration of children’s histories.
‘Creative direct work’
Additional resources had been invested in the multi-agency safeguarding hub, inspectors said, creating increased management and social work capacity.
“There are further plans to enhance capacity and reduce caseloads. Senior managers recognise that greater quality assurance activity is needed to focus on the quality of practice and the impact of how this is improving children’s outcomes,” the report said.
Jenny Harrison, cabinet member for social care and safeguarding in Oldham, welcomed Ofsted’s findings and was pleased areas of strength were acknowledged.
“We’re particularly pleased that Ofsted found the majority of children in need of urgent help and protection are identified and receive a swift and effective multi agency response. Some staff were also praised for their creative direct work with children and young people,” Harrison said.
She added: “The recommendations for improvement are in areas we’re already addressing and we will continue that work with partners because providing vital and effective services for Oldham’s children and families in need is a key priority for us.”