‘Highly effective’ information sharing drives improvements to ‘inadequate’ council’s child protection services

Sixth monitoring visit to Hull finds 'increasingly skilled' social workers reporting manageable caseloads, support from managers and wide-ranging development opportunities

Skyline view of Hull Guildhall (credit: Paul Lakin / Wikimedia Commons)
Hull (credit: Paul Lakin / Wikimedia Commons)

Ofsted has praised “highly effective” information sharing as it noted continuing progress at Hull council’s children’s services, which were graded ‘inadequate’ in 2019.

A sixth monitoring visit to the Yorkshire authority, focusing on services for children in need of help and protection, found social workers reporting their caseloads were manageable and that they had time to see children frequently.

“This has been greatly assisted by the effective duty arrangements of social workers and managers at the front door, augmented by improvements to early information-sharing and identification of children’s needs,” inspectors wrote following the July visit.

Children and families referred to services in Hull were now receiving “timely and appropriate” responses, with thresholds well understood across a cohesive local safeguarding partnership and “increasingly skilled” workers being supported by solid management oversight, boosting morale.

Social workers also gave positive feedback on the training and learning opportunities now available, which they said were “informing their interventions with families and improving the quality of their practice”.

‘Leaders know their services well’

Following its ‘inadequate’ judgment in May 2019, services in Hull continued to struggle at first, with the senior management team changing in 2020 after a monitoring visit uncovered ongoing deterioration.

Interim director of children’s services Nicola Clemo was replaced last year by a new permanent DCS, Pauline Turner, who has overseen steady process since joining from Sandwell Children’s Trust.

Ofsted’s previous monitoring visit during spring 2022 praised Hull’s services for care leavers, with the Department for Education (DfE) ending intervention in the council earlier this month on the recommendation of its commissioner, Paul Moffat.

The DfE said at the time that it would be continuing to monitor progress at six-monthly intervals through a non-statutory improvement notice.

After their latest visit, inspectors noted that corporate financial investment by Hull council had driven improvements to the front door and assessment teams, with managers now able to track progress accurately thanks to “much improved” performance management systems.

“The local authority’s much-improved self-assessment, together with accurate performance data, means that senior leaders know their service very well,” Ofsted said.

“Scrutiny of performance and improvement activity is driven through robust and independently chaired improvement board meetings,” inspectors added. “Elected members challenge and scrutinise performance data and information, and hold the leadership team to account for the quality of practice to families.”

‘We are taking big strides’

Responding to the findings of the monitoring visit, Turner said she was “very hopeful” that the next full inspection of children’s services would see an improved grading.

“I am delighted that Hull is continuing to show real, positive improvements in how we support children, young people and their families, and this is thanks to the commitment and dedication of our staff,” she added.

Matt Jukes, the council’s chief executive, said: “Our young people and their families deserve the very highest standards of support and I am extremely pleased that, through the dedication, hard work and commitment of our staff and partners, we are taking big strides in the improvement of our services to deliver that.”

The children’s minister, Brendan Clarke-Smith, said it was “good to see Hull’s focus on improving their children’s services”.

“By listening to children’s experiences and creating strong relationships with social workers they are directly helping some of the most vulnerable families,” he added. “The commitment of local leaders and hard-working professionals like those in Hull are all part of our nationwide efforts to improve children’s social care across the country.”


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