Ofsted has published findings of a monitoring visit into children’s social care in Hull, focusing on children in care.
Inspectors visited Hull on 18th and 19th November which followed a previous two-day monitoring visit in June, which reported improvements in services for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan. A full inspection of Children, Young People and Family Services took place in January 2019.
Following the visit to Hull, Ofsted reported positive improvements in practice for children in care. They assessed that permanence planning for children in care has improved, that the focus of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) is a strength and ensures the right actions happen at the right time for children, that children in long term foster care are generally settled and making good progress, adoption planning is timely, thorough and in children’s best interests and that our Social Workers know their children well and want the best for them.
Councillor Shane McMurray, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services said: “As the Cabinet member for our children, young people and families services it is my number one priority to make sure our most at risk, vulnerable and neglected children have a swift path to a safer life free from harm and abuse, and with better outcomes.
“To those ends I am delighted with the recent Ofsted monitoring report which shows we are making good progress and improvement. Ofsted has recognised that our excellent social work staff and “our strong political and corporate backing” means more children in Hull are getting the right intervention “at the right time” and are settled into their new lives. They also noted “significant improvement in systems and early planning.”
“We still have further progress to make, for example in terms of reducing worker caseloads and visiting children more regularly. However with continued development and the “improved focus of elected members”, I am confident that we are well on the way to becoming a Good authority, with our goal of Outstanding on the horizon. I also wish to pay tribute and thanks to all staff who have shown dedication and commitment to our children in Hull and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic where staff have and continue to go that extra mile.”
Ofsted reported that: permanence options for children are considered at an early stage; a weekly best practice scrutiny panel, which has been implemented since the last inspection, provides a forum for senior managers to have oversight of plans for children who have very recently come into care and ensures that early plans for children are usually well-formed; permanence planning is also regularly revisited for children who have been in care for some time.
The sense of urgency in progressing permanence plans and preventing delays for children is an improvement since the last inspection and children’s wishes and feelings inform decisions about them returning to their families or discharging care orders. Risks to children are carefully considered, and decisions about children returning home or care orders being discharged are made at the right time for children. This leads to children feeling more invested in their plans being successful.
Inspectors noted that children in long term foster care are generally settled and making good progress.
Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) are usually considered when it is appropriate for children, and adoption planning is timely, thorough and in children’s best interests. The increasing consideration and use of early permanence placements, along with quality of pre-birth processes, are ensuring that children do not experience instability and unnecessary placement moves when their plan is one of adoption.
Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) oversight of progress for children is now a strength in Hull. IROs speak to and see children in between formal review meetings and check the progress of plans at regular intervals. This ensures the right actions happen at the right time for the majority of children. IROs know their children well and ensure their voice is heard and considered.
Ofsted reported that social workers know their children well, they see them regularly, the time they spend with them has a purpose and they ensure that children’s voices are heard in plans and meetings about them. Direct work with children helps their wishes and feelings to be considered in planning about them. Social workers feel that their caseloads are usually manageable, although reducing social worker caseloads through a reduction in social worker vacancy rates is a continuing priority for the authority. Detailed recruitment and retention plans are in place.
Social workers describe very supportive managers at all levels and newly qualified social workers benefit from a range of support. Social workers can also see the progress the local authority is making for children, and know what areas need further development.
The significant improvements in performance management systems and data since the last inspection means information about the service is detailed and ‘live’.
Pauline Turner, Director of Children’s Services said: “I am pleased that Ofsted has again observed improvements in children’s services in Hull. This is a real testament to the continued committed and hard work of staff. In particular, Inspectors felt that we know our children well, that we visit children regularly; we hear, listen and act on their wishes and feelings which informs the plans and the decisions we make for them.
“We continue on our improvement journey, but this monitoring visit outcome is clear that we are making real, measurable progress in our work to help, protect and support children in Hull.”