Hull City Council is accelerating its improvement plans, which aim to increase investment and put children at the centre of its social care transformation, following an inspection by Ofsted.
A report detailing the findings of the inspection, which took place from 14 to 25 January 2019, has been published today.
Ofsted looked at three areas and made the following judgements:
- The impact of leaders on social work practice – requires improvement to be good
- The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers – requires improvement to be good
- The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection – inadequate.
The judgement relating to help and protection means that children’s services in Hull overall are rated as inadequate.
The report is clear that the council’s response is timely and appropriate when children are at immediate risk of significant harm. It acknowledges recent improvements in the experiences of children in care and care leavers and highlights a number of areas where better practice is evident including:
- Improvements in fostering and adoption
- Early help services
- Support for children who are on the edge of care; the success of these services means fewer teenagers coming into emergency care and being supported to remain within their families
- Tackling child sexual exploitation
- Improving management oversight and supervision
- Opportunities for children and care leavers to shape how their services are developed and delivered.
Ofsted’s report also recognises that strong leadership from senior managers and politicians is driving improvements in children’s services. At the time of the inspection, the council was 18 months into a major transformation programme, which had seen progress in many of the key areas the authority had identified for early action, including the timeliness of assessments and increasing the number of social worker posts by 24, meaning caseloads are significantly reduced from an average of 28, to an average of 17.
However, Ofsted’s report concludes that the council has not yet sufficiently addressed weaknesses in frontline practice and management oversight and that more needs to be done to improve the recognition of risk and the quality of social work practice for children in need of help and protection.
Councillor Stephen Brady, Leader of Hull City Council said: “I am very disappointed at the findings of this inspection. The needs of the city’s children are paramount and are at the centre of everything we do and strive for as a council.
“We understand that significant improvements need to be made and are giving this our absolute focus. Working closely with Ofsted and the Department for Education, we will ensure that the necessary improvements are made quickly so that the services we provide to our children and their families are of the highest standards.
“We have a plan in place to address the issues Ofsted has identified and have injected an additional £13m per year into Children’s Services over the last three years. We are now committing a further £2m in the coming year to increase the number of local placements for children in care, provide additional support for children with special educational needs and care leavers and to ensure we are able to accelerate the improvements we are making across all of our children’s services.”
Since January, the council has reviewed and refined its improvement programme to respond to Ofsted’s detailed findings and recommendations. In addition to injecting a further £2m into children’s services, the council has:
- Carried out audits and independent oversight of more than 150 cases in addition to the council’s ongoing regular audit programme
- Implemented changes to improve the quality of private fostering placements
- Provided training for staff to improve practice in key areas including risk assessments and family meetings
- Hosted visits from staff in high performing authorities to provide support to the improvement programme and learn from their good practice.
Matt Jukes, Chief Executive of Hull City Council said: “The Ofsted judgement is hugely disappointing but we take it extremely seriously and are committed to making the necessary improvements. Whilst we have been prioritising our children’s services for a number of years, it is clear that we have much more to do to ensure all of our most vulnerable children and young people receive the highest standards of care, support and protection they need and deserve.
“With a committed team and, in particular, our hard-working frontline staff, along with strong support from our partners in the police, health, schools and the community and voluntary sector, our relentless drive for improvement will continue and we are confident that we can build on the progress we have made so far.”
Alison Murphy, Director of Children’s Young People and Family Services, said: “We have made significant strides since the inspection and the conditions for further rapid improvement are in place. Our top priority now is to continue to improve the quality of social work practice with a tireless focus on improving outcomes for vulnerable children in the city.
“Our teams want to deliver the best possible services for children and families in Hull and are working extremely hard to deliver the necessary improvements. We are absolutely dedicated to building on the improvements already benefiting children and young people in the city.”