A recent Ofsted inspection into children’s services at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has praised the significant progress made to the quality of practice.
Front door multi-agency services were found to be highly effective and social workers are described as ‘committed and motivated’ to get the best outcomes for children.
While the report acknowledges the hard work which has taken place since the last inspection in 2016 and a challenging local context, Ofsted issued a rating of ‘requires improvement’.
The three-week inspection that took place during July looked at all services relating to the care and education of looked after children in need of protection.
Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “Children’s social work is an ever demanding and complex area but at the heart of all we do is a child who is desperately in need of our care and support. I’m therefore pleased to see that the inspectors recognised the significant progress that has been made since 2016 and that many of the services to keep children safe are effective.
“Inspectors also acknowledged that children’s and their families benefit from a wide range of early help services which work effectively with them to promote children’s welfare and reduce risk.
“However progress has been uneven and unfortunately some work has not been implemented quickly enough to take full effect. Our teams will include the Ofsted feedback and recommendations into our existing action plans and we will increase the pace of change. Senior capacity in this complex field is key and we are addressing this through the corporate management changes taking place.
“As a council we have made a commitment to take advice from all different sectors and experts, but it is the children and young people themselves who we need to include, more than we already do, as part of our improvement journey.”
The inspection took place between July 15-26. The report includes four recommendations. In 2016 there were 12 recommendations.
Areas of excellence or improvement include:
- Staff were praised for being committed and experienced.
- Adoption services was highlighted as an area of excellence.
- Front door services including MASH+ and MARAT were praised.
- Positive changes to the fostering service are noted within the report.
- The virtual school, which monitors the academic activities of looked after children, is described as effective and helping to reduce school exclusions for children in care.
- Care for children with disabilities, support for children at risk of substance misuse, processes for children to return home and support for care leavers were all praised.
- Relationships with partner organisations was highlighted as a strength.
The four recommendations for improvement are:
- Managers’ and leaders’ oversight, and evaluation, of the quality of frontline practice, and translating this into timely planning for improvements for children within their timeframe.
- The quality of planning for children in need of protection.
- The oversight and challenge from independent chairs of children’s child protection conferences and children’s care reviews.
- The timeliness and effectiveness of pre-proceedings under the public law outline (PLO) arrangements.