An inspection of children’s care services in Liverpool has found there are no widespread or serious failures, but that it “requires improvement”.
A 10 strong team from Ofsted spent three weeks in the city in May and June and randomly inspected around 130 files covering child protection, adoption and fostering cases.
They have judged that the welfare of looked-after children is safeguarded and promoted, and that the council “knows itself well and is working on a range of improvements”. They found a “committed and energetic senior leadership team” providing “strong leadership”.
Inspectors saw examples of “good social work practice where interventions were having an impact and making a difference to children’s lives”. It found that social workers are “passionate about their work and morale is generally good”.
There is also praise for the early intervention team who “deliver good support for children and families” and their work “often results in positive, sustained change”.
They also rate the city as being “very successful” at placing looked-after children within the city or neighbouring local authorities and that the majority of children are “living in stable foster placements that meet their needs”
The Children in Care Council – led by looked-after young people – is highlighted in the report for its role in influencing changes to the service. Inspectors found there is a good variety of support to help care leavers into work and training.
The inspection did not find any areas for priority and immediate action, but noted among its findings that the turnover of social work staff is too high, as are some caseloads.
In addition, the quality of supervision records, assessment and intervention was found to be variable and child protection plans were not consistently outcome-focused and measurable.
Councillor Jane Corbett, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We welcome this thorough and detailed report, which has been carried out under Ofsted’s new rigorous inspection process. It is a fair assessment of the service that is being provided to children and young people who we support and care for in Liverpool.
“In common with other areas of the country, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of referrals and cases we are dealing with. It is reassuring that, despite the increased challenges, our children are being kept safe.
“I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved in keeping young people safe, whether they are our own frontline social workers, partner organisations, foster carers, extended families or those involved in early intervention such as family support workers. They all do a tremendous job every single day – often in very challenging and upsetting circumstances – to protect our most vulnerable children and young people.
“We recognise that we have some way to go, but the report is a good basis to move on from. We are already acting on the recommendations, and our progress will be scrutinized at select committee on a regular basis to make sure we are delivering on the improvements needed to make sure the service we provide is consistently good.”
Ofsted have made a total of 22 recommendations to improve the service and an action plan is being drawn up by the city council to implement them.
CHILDREN IN CARE IN NUMBERS
• 4,277 receiving a specialist children’s service
• 1,000 looked-after children
• 698 young people in foster care
• 431 subject to a child protection plan
• 48 adoptions over the last 12 months