Management oversight has been identified by Ofsted as ‘particularly strong’ within a local authority judged as ‘requires improvement’ in its inspection back in 2015.
A focused visit to Halton council’s integrated contact and referral team (iCART) found improvements in responses to contacts, with the local authority’s response to children at risk or in need judged appropriate in all cases seen.
“Inspectors found evidence of sustained and improved partnership working between children’s services and their partners when screening contacts, including police and health colleagues, domestic abuse services and, more recently, children and adolescent mental health services,” Ofsted said.
It found that management oversight was “routinely evident” in case records, and that managers employed “an effective range of methods to scrutinise and review the quality of information sharing, decision-making and the appropriate application of thresholds”.
“This also means that senior leaders have a clear sight of trends and emerging issues.”
Staff valued the supervision they received, Ofsted observed, and had access to good training and development opportunities. Meanwhile performance in the iCART found that contacts about children and families were “appropriately screened”.
“Information sharing between partners is timely and thorough, with quality analysis undertaken by workers who use a strengths-based practice model to support the appropriate application of thresholds and swift referral on to the relevant service for assessment.”
In a separate focused visit by the regulator, senior managers at Newcastle council’s children’s services were found to have “embraced the learning” since its last full inspection in May 2017, when it was rated ‘requires improvement’.
Managers assessed during the visit to the initial response service (IRS) were judged to know their services well “through enhanced performance information and robust quality assurance of frontline practice”.
They also took “assertive action when practice falls below standard”, while “learning is embraced and disseminated through regular team meetings and informs future planning, including training.
Ofsted found training already focused on improving assessments, child protection investigations, and management supervision.
The service was found “Social workers quickly identify children at risk of significant harm. Most responses are swift and evidence good multi-agency information-sharing.”
However, supervision of social workers was regular but did not “not sufficiently focus on what is needed to progress planning for children”, while despite managers being responsive to the rise in demand for services, caseloads remained high.
Ofsted recommended that allocations were looked at “to enable social workers to undertake consistently