A SNAP inspection of Thurrock Council’s children’s services by Ofsted last month has sparked praise from a leading councillor.
Cllr Sue MacPherson, the council’s Cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “Although the inspectors only looked at a comparatively small area of the service — examining contact, referral and assessment arrangements — the report reflects well on us.
“At a time when these services are in the public eye and under the close focus of the Government, Thurrock came out very well.
“There are no areas for priority action and that’s a rarity these days. Although some areas for development have been identified, that is to be expected.”
The inspectors identified several “strengths” in the service.
For example it states: “Consultant social workers are deployed within the Initial Response teams and are making a positive impact on the quality of the service. There is good evidence of expert advice and clear intervention in the many cases in which domestic abuse and alcohol and substance misuse are features.”
Others include the way the council’s electronic record system is utilised; quality training and development opportunities leading to “strong teams with good staff morale” meaning “high levels of demand for service are consistently met by well considered practice”; and the way senior managers are closely involved in “improving the quality of the contact, referral and assessment service”.
The inspectors also identified 14 areas where services are “delivered in accordance with national guidance” which means they are better than the basic requirements.
Their letter states: “The inspection sampled the quality and effectiveness of contact, referral and assessment arrangements and their impact on minimising the incidence of child abuse and neglect.”
It adds: “From the evidence gathered, the inspection identified a number of areas where the contact, referral and assessment arrangements were delivered satisfactorily in accordance with national guidance.”
These include how priority is given to ensuring children are always seen, and seen alone when necessary, by social workers during visits; caseloads are of manageable proportions, despite the demand for assessments having increased; and efficient inter-agency working.
Cllr MacPherson, added: “Protecting our children must be a council’s top priority. I’m really pleased that this unannounced inspection confirmed my belief that we are working well.
“I would like to pass on my thanks and congratulations to the team for the way they coped with the inspectors’ arrival and the tremendous job they are doing.”
Ofsted’s criticisms were:
“There is no effective protocol between partner agencies to screen and consider the most effective response to large numbers of incidents of domestic abusethat are referred to the council. Consequently, resources in the contact, referral and assessment team are not used in the most efficient way.
“The proportion of referrals that are repeat referrals within 12 months of a previous referral remains higher than in comparable councils and well above
the national average. Analysis of data on referrals and management is insufficient to establish the underlying reasons.
“Although the council collates some service user views to help improve children’s services, insufficient use is made of their views to improve the effectiveness of the contact, referral and assessment system.”