Ofsted praises 'good' Hartlepool council over continued improvement


A council where children's services are already rated as "good" has been praised by Ofsted for making further improvements to provision following a check on progress.

Hartlepool Council's children's services was previously rated "good" by Ofsted. Picture: Adobe Stock
Hartlepool Council's children's services was previously rated "good" by Ofsted. Picture: Adobe Stock

Children services at Hartlepool Borough Council were last fully inspected in July 2018, when overall effectiveness was judged to be good.

A monitoring visit conducted by the inspectorate last month found that since then, the "strong and stable" senior management team has continued to improve the quality of social work practice in spite of increasing demand for services.

Inspectors found relationship-based practice to be a service priority and that senior managers had created additional capacity to help maintain manageable caseloads to enable social workers to deliver high-quality direct work with children and their families.

"As a result, children’s circumstances are improving," the monitoring report states.

"Senior managers invest significant effort in understanding the quality of frontline practice.

"They use this information very effectively to identify and shape improvement activity and influence local partnership priorities.

"They do this, for example, by developing the multi-agency community support team as a new way of working to help to meet the distinct needs of children and families in Hartlepool.

Inspectors added that senior managers "regard the workforce to be their greatest asset".

"Social workers highly value the working culture, and some keenly sought to work for the local authority," the report states.

"Managers energetically prioritise social workers’ health and wellbeing by ensuring that they have protected time to take breaks.

"High-quality practice is actively promoted, celebrated and shared through weekly signs of safety briefings.

"This is improving the quality and consistency of core social work practice. The introduction of assistant team managers creates career pathways to support career progression. As a result, the retention and recruitment of social workers is highly effective."

However, Ofsted warned that despite strong partnerships between local agencies, key professionals do not always attend children’s review meetings.

Meanwhile, when children’s circumstances are not improving, in a very small number of cases seen by inspectors, timely authoritative action was not always taken to escalate to pre-proceedings.

"Inspectors identified two families for whom this should have escalated sooner, and where children had been left in situations of ongoing neglect for too long," the report states.

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