Bedfordshire: Early help services effectively support children and families, inspection finds
Monday, March 21, 2022
Inspectors have praised early help services for children in Bedfordshire as part of “effective partnership working” that delivers intensive support to children and families.
The latest inspection by Ofsted of children’s services at Central Bedfordshire Council, carried out between 17 to 21 January, rated the authority as ‘good’ for its overall effectiveness.
The inspectorate said the council had provided ongoing investment in early help and additional family support services enabling families to access support, often without the need for statutory intervention.
“Strength and improvements are evident across the full range of social work practice.
“The local authority has sustained effective services for children in need of help and protection,” its report said.
It highlights the council’s commitment to providing effective early intervention to children and families through a range of locally-based community support and advice services.
“This, with effective partnership working, enables children and families to benefit from intensive early help and support,” the report added.
Inspectors praised “good targeting of support” by the authority to vulnerable teenagers, young carers and younger children.
This approach was helping families to build their resilience, they said.
“Thresholds for intervention by early help services are well understood and applied appropriately. Children get timely and proportionate support.
“For many children, this support prevents their need escalating and results in positive experiences for them and their parents,” the report concluded.
However, inspectors noted “in some discrete areas, practice is not rigorous enough to ensure that the needs and welfare of all children remain paramount”.
“In particular, there is a lack of thoroughness in response to some initial contacts and in some children’s cases where child protection investigations do not lead to a child protection conference,” they said.
Among the recommendations outlined in the report are improvements to decision-making about contacts and child protection enquiries, to ensure that children receive the support they need at the earliest opportunity.
There should also be better consistency in recording key decisions and changes in children’s plans on case records, it added.
Meanwhile, a recent Ofsted inspection of children’s services at Surrey County Council found services had improved since they were judged to be ‘inadequate’ in 2018.
Following the visit, which took place between 17 to 28 January, the inspectorate rated the authority as ‘requires improvement to be good’ for its overall effectiveness.
“While improvements are evident and children are safer, some inconsistencies remain.
“Some children benefit from helpful services at an early stage, which make a real difference to their lives; others receive a less effective services,” inspectors said.
But they praised social workers for listening “carefully” to children and making sure their views informed decision-making.
“When children come into care, they are placed within their wider family if this is possible and in their best interests. Most children in care live in long-term homes and make good progress.
“Many care leavers are supported well to live independently, developing confidence and skills to assist them into adulthood,” they added.