Inspectors warn of knock-on effects of criminal investigations taking ‘priority’ in child safeguarding cases

Ofsted said an 'inadequate' service was making improvements but criminal investigations could sideline social work in child safeguarding cases

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Inspectors have warned that criminal investigations can “take priority” in child safeguarding cases in an ‘inadequate’ service.

An Ofsted monitoring visit of children’s services in Wirral found improvements had been made since the service had been rated ‘inadequate’ in 2016, however it warned that the complexities of criminal enquiries and child safeguarding processes were not being fully considered.

The report said the criminal investigations had taken priority in certain cases, and this had knock-on effects on social work practice.

“This has resulted in, for example, social workers being constrained from discussing serious incidents with parents and/or children, being unable to establish the impact of traumatic events on children or establish the parental capacity to protect and being unable to provide suitable support,” the report said.

It added social care staff did not always understand the reasons for some police actions.

‘Persevering well’

Inspectors praised social workers’ understanding of risk factors in children’s lives, and saw how each social worker knew their cases well.

Ofsted report “appropriate levels of professional curiosity” and that disguised compliance was “understood and worked with diligently”.

“Inspectors also saw social workers persevering well to engage reluctant families and cases being able to progress because of the quality of trust and the relationship between the worker and the family,” the report said.

Practitioners were positive about working in Wirral, and reported that progress was being made and “early fears about change are falling away”.

“Team managers are positive about the renewed emphasis on performance information and the higher standards they are being held to,” the report said.

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