+++Watch Liverpool City Council’s video about the Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services here: https://bit.ly/2Mtv4ES +++
AN inspection of children’s services in Liverpool has found it has made improvements but cannot yet be rated as good.
Ofsted officials spent two weeks embedded in the local authority during May examining scores of case files and meeting dozens of front line staff and managers.
They found that children at immediate risk of harm receive a ‘prompt and effective response’ to ensure they are safeguarded, and there has been ‘sustained progress’ in helping children who go missing or are at risk of exploitation.
Ofsted found that there needs to be a reduction in the high caseload that social workers have, which is having an impact on the quality of care assessments. This means that young people’s needs are not always well considered through assessments and plans, and there can be a delay in having their needs met and risks reduced.
Their inspectors say the ‘majority’ of children, including those waiting for adoption and care leavers, are in ‘stable placements’ and have their lives improved as a result of being in care. However, some children are still in care when they don’t need to be, and too many children are waiting for a permanent placement.
They have concluded there has been ‘purposeful and targeted progress’ in work to keep children safe, and improving the early help provided to families needing support.
The instant response team which forms part of early help is praised for working with families to turn their lives around and prevent children being taken into care, while the ‘highly skilled’ disabled children’s team is also singled out for ‘strong planning and [providing] bespoke packages of support’.
Councillor Barry Kushner, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I welcome this report, which is a very accurate assessment of where we are as a local authority, and for me the key finding is that children in the city are safe.
“Although we’re improving, we know we’ve still got a way to go, but what’s crucial is we know how we are going to get there and have plans in place to address every single area identified by Ofsted for further development. We are prioritising reducing caseloads by recruiting 16 extra staff.
“Every day, our social work teams are going the extra mile to keep Liverpool’s most vulnerable children safe and, for the most part, they are getting it right. Ofsted recognised this too.
“Children’s services across the country are under pressure as never before due to the rising number of children in care and the impact of austerity which has hit our budget and is causing more families to tip into crisis. When set against in this challenging context, I am pleased that we are making progress and am confident we will deliver further improvements.”
The inspection report praises the council’s leadership team for an ‘honest and accurate self-assessment’ and they conclude they have ‘a very clear understanding of issues and improvements needed’. It adds: ‘The local authority knows itself well and had already recognised most of the strengths and areas for improvement identified by inspectors during this inspection’.
Steve Reddy, Director of children’s services, said: “Since I was appointed last year, I have been hugely impressed by the effort and commitment of our staff to deliver the very best services to our young people.
“On a daily basis they are going over and above the call of duty, often in very difficult circumstances, to make life better for the children in our care.
“We are focusing very much on improving the support we provide to our social workers and we have already recruited new staff we are taking on to address the areas of most need.
“We are also going to be concentrating on supporting young people in care in to training and employment because the council – a big employer which has links to many other organisations – is in a good position to offer them the opportunities they need and deserve.”