Children’s services at St Helens Borough Council are improving say Ofsted inspectors who conducted the first ever virtual visit for the regulator.
In its first visit of inspectors after receiving an inadequate rating in September 2019 they saw a number of improvements which mean children’s voices are being put at the heart of the vital work social workers do.
Ofsted inspectors held the first ever virtual Ofsted visit and made the most of digital technology to talk to social workers, managers and senior leaders at St Helens Council over two days in July.
Inspectors Mandy Nightingale and Diane Partridge found that ‘a strength in St Helens is that social workers know the children they work with well’ which means that getting the best outcome for children, which includes involving them in the process, is at the centre of the work being done by social workers.
They also saw that new frameworks put in place to improve the reviewing process on cases is having a positive impact with early and regular reviews meaning that children’s cases can be stepped down where interventions have worked early.
Inspectors also found thorough tracking of cases is now in place to help achieve early permanence, which means finding long term stable care for children, is now benefitting those who have recently come into care.
Councillor Nova Charlton, Cabinet Member for Protecting Young People, said: “We have worked tirelessly since we received our Ofsted inspection to constantly review how we can support our social workers do this crucial job of protecting our young people. We knew we had to make sweeping changes and Ofsted recognised the heavy investment in improving capacity by recruiting more social workers has helped to give our staff more time to work directly with children which has helped them focus more on finding positive outcomes for those who need our help most.
“We are moving in the right direction now and our commitment to improvement has been driven by our dedicated social workers who have actively collaborated with us to reshape our services and we’ve drawn on their practical experience to create innovative ways of working, particularly throughout the difficulties that Covid-19 have added to their roles. I want to thank them for the amazing work they have been doing and how valued they are by the children they support and the help they have provided each other working through the challenging circumstances over the last few months.”
In the small number of areas where more work was needed, such as updating records, inspectors noted that the council had also identified these issues and had put new audit processes in place to address the issues and was starting to embed the new practice aimed at addressing these issues.
Jim Leivers, Interim Director of Children’s Services, added: “We are continuously reviewing our processes along with the Independent Children’s Improvement Board to see where we can continue to grow and build a children’s services fit for the future. Ofsted recognised that we were aware of where we can improve and noted that we had taken action already to address those concerns. The findings of the inspectors also mirrors the positive six month review by the Department for Education. With strong internal review processes in place we expect to see continued improvement so that our most vulnerable children get the best outcomes to have bright futures ahead of them.”