Work is well underway to implement the recommendations from Ofsted inspectors, following their recent focused visit to Plymouth’s children’s social care services.
The inspection, which was carried out at the end of last year, focused on the service’s ‘Front Door’. These are the services in place when children’s social care are initially contacted by a professional or member of the public who is concerned about a child. The inspection includes a review of the early help and initial response service which provide children, young people and their families support when difficulties emerge at home and to help stop problems developing in the future.
The visit is part of the Ofsted framework for inspecting local authority children’s services (ILACS) which evaluates their effectiveness. It does not include a graded judgement, but identifies areas for improvement.
The inspectors highlighted a number of areas for improvement, including the quality and timeliness of assessments and initial plans, management oversight and decision making, quality of supervision and prioritisation of actions in the services improvement plan.
Prior to the inspection, Plymouth City Council had already identified a need for significant improvement to its early help offer and to the city’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) services. Work to make these improvements began last year and additional funding has been allocated to support the changes required.
The Council has a new Director of Children’s Services, Sharon Muldoon and a new Service Director for Children, Young People and Families, Jane Anstis, who are leading the changes across the service.
The inspection praised the newly appointed senior leadership team’s enthusiasm and determination for change and recognised that there are already plans in place to make the required changes to the service. This will include a new workforce development programme to support and improve social work practice.
The Council has launched a new support line offering ‘early help’ to families and professionals working with children. Work is also underway with the police to establish the changes needed to ensure that there is sufficient out-of-hours support available for children and families. This will help to ensure families are accessing the right support at the right times.
The Council will continue to work closely with its partners across the city, including early years providers, schools and the police, to ensure that appropriate changes are made following Ofsted’s findings.
Councillor Charlotte Carlyle, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Children and Young People, said: “Our absolute priority is the safety of children in Plymouth and we are committed to implementing changes as quickly as possible to ensure that our children and families receive the support they need.
“A new leadership team is in place and we are investing more money in services. This council is fully committed to making the necessary changes. We understand what we need to do to improve and realise that we need to do this at a greater speed than we are already doing.”
Sharon Muldoon, the new Director of Children’s Services at Plymouth City Council, added: “I know that people will understandably be disappointed and concerned about the findings from Ofsted. But I would like to reassure families that we are working hard to put in place a robust improvement plan that will ensure that changes are made.
“Since I started at Plymouth City Council I have been impressed by the commitment, dedication and passion of staff in my new team, and the partners that we work with. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children and families in Plymouth is a priority for us all and together we are determined to create a modern children’s services department that the city can be proud of.”