Inspectors praise progress at two 'inadequate' councils

By Neil Puffett

| 14 May 2018

Ofsted has praised improvements at two councils where children's services were previously rated "inadequate" following visits to check on progress.

Ofsted inspectors found that Tameside Council has made progress on early help services. Picture: Google

A monitoring visit focusing on early help provision in Tameside said the appointment of a new interim director of children's services had helped drive progress, with children starting to experience better outcomes.

In Worcestershire, which is in the process of establishing an independent trust to run children's services after provision was rated inadequate in November 2016, Ofsted inspectors assessing services for children in care said children are "starting to receive better support and services".

In Tameside, Ofsted said the appointment of James Thomas as interim director of children's services (DCS) late last year had provided "strategic direction and focus" for early help services at the local authority.

"Early help is a service priority for the council," a letter outlining the findings of the visit states.

"The appointment of a dedicated lead for early help has increased capacity. This, coupled with the strategic direction and momentum provided by the new DCS and senior management team, is driving positive progress."

The letter adds that managers and early help workers demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the families they work with.

"Team stability ensures that children can build trusting relationships with their workers, resulting in strong engagement with interventions and improved outcomes," the letter states.

"This is a much better position than has been evident in some teams on earlier monitoring visits."

The visit was the fifth monitoring visit to Tameside since the local authority was judged inadequate in December 2016.

Ofsted said the current pace of change, combined with increased engagement by partners, is resulting in improved outcomes for children.

However, although early help workers who spoke with inspectors had a clear understanding of their work and were able to speak with authority about the children and families who they are working with, the actual quality of practice was deemed to be "inconsistent".

And the voice of the child was found to not always be recorded well within case work.

"While there is evidence of good-quality direct work with children, inspectors saw case recording which lacked analysis and evaluation of the work undertaken," the letter states.

In Worcestershire, Ofsted said leaders increasingly understand their services for children in care and the knowledge is starting to result in improvements in practice.

However, Ofsted did say that many of the positive changes are very recent, and not all children and young people in care receive consistently appropriate support.

"Some children and young people told inspectors that they receive good support from their social workers and personal advisers, especially when they continue to have the same worker," a letter outlining the findings states.  

"However, a small number of children and young people continue to experience changes of worker. This, at times, can result in interruptions to children's plans, and, as a result, they do not always maintain placement stability or achieve their agreed care plan."

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