The inspection, which took place in November 2014, looked closely at the experiences of children and young people who had needed or still need help and / or protection. The quality of outcomes achieved for children and their families were also considered.
Chief Inspector for CSSIW, Imelda Richardson, said:
During the inspection no widespread or serious failures were identified by inspectors that left children being harmed or at risk of harm. However, management oversight of child care practice was insufficient to ensure that this position would be maintained. The local authority acknowledged that prior to April 2014 there was insufficient attention given to improving frontline practice.
There has since been a greater focus and attention to improving practice in children’s services particularly in the last six months; however these developments need to be embedded and sustained. Inspectors found that senior managers were committed to achieving improvements in the provision of help and protection for children and families. It is important therefore that the recommendations are followed to ensure that this commitment is achieved.
The following recommendations were made which will assist the local authority to continue to improve:
- Training should be delivered for all professionals/agencies to ensure that the thresholds for access to children’s services are clearly understood and consistently applied; this training should incorporate completion of quality referral information and reports to conference.
- Effective systems must be in place to ensure that all children who meet the threshold for an initial assessment by children’s services receive a timely assessment that is of good quality so that their safety is secured.
- Strategy discussions and decisions should be informed by the involvement of all relevant professionals and clearly record the rationale for decisions and agreed timescales for action.
- The quality and consistency of record keeping should be improved; all staff and managers should ensure that their records are of good quality, are up to date and are systematically stored.
- The quality of risk assessment and risk management should be improved; policies and toolkits should be revised to focus explicitly on risk assessment and management in children’s services and staff should be trained appropriately. “Contracts of expectation” should not be used to manage risk; statutory child protection processes should be initiated where there are safeguarding concerns.
- There should be a greater focus on engaging with children and involving them in the assessment process; this should include taking more account of children’s communication needs and a more detailed analysis of their cultural, religious and other diversity needs.
- The quality of assessments and plans should be improved to ensure that they are consistently of a good quality, with a clear focus on the needs, risks and strengths of children, and that desired outcomes, timescales and accountabilities for actions are clear.
- Performance management and quality assurance arrangements, including scrutiny of service demand and routine auditing of the quality of practice, should be more effectively embedded so that managers at all levels have timely, relevant and accurate performance and quality assurance information to enable them to do their jobs effectively and to deliver improvements.
- The consistency and quality of management oversight, direction and supervision of front line staff throughout children’s services should be improved.
- Senior leaders should take steps to enhance their line of sight on frontline work and ensure the improvements needed in children’s services are prioritised and the pace of improvement sustained.