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Friday, March 08, 2013

In 2 OFSTED Reports, Peterborough Childrens Services gains second to bottom 'Adequate - meets minimum standards' rating following snap OFSTED inspection

Still clinging on : Cllr. Sheila Scott OBE,  Tory Party Agent, Cabinet member for Childrens Services.
CEO for Private Care Home Owners Organisation based in London.
Repeatedly refused calls for her resignation...     (Pic Courtesy BBC)

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/Peterborough 
Read the full report here 

Here is a summary of the things we [OFSTED]  found at the inspection that need improving and the things we told the Director:

Although there has been a big improvement in services, the council and other
organisations working to help and protect children need to go on checking regularly
that these changes are making the difference they need to 

This needs to be organised and overseen rigorously by a group with responsibility for this called the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board.

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People working with children in Peterborough know what to do when they think any
child or young person is at risk of harm or is being abused. 

Help is usually offered quickly enough but workers do not always think about all the risks for a particular
child or take all the information that is known into account. 

We have given a very full list of the different tasks that the council and other organisations need to do to put things right. 

Some must be done straight away and others may take more time.

The managers and other organisations do not always check thoroughly enough that
things are done as well as they should be. 

We have asked the Director and the Safeguarding Children Board to ensure that this will improve in the next six months.

We asked them to make sure that the proper information is collected for them to monitor and ensure that good quality work is done to help and protect children.

Social workers must make sure that children and their families’ views are taken into account when making and checking plans to keep children safe. This should happen
straight away. 

Children must be helped by an adult who will speak for them and
make sure services and back-up plans are right for the child. This should happen
within three months. 

In the longer run, the council must make sure that parents and
children’s ideas help them to design the services that are right for the whole area.

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In what can only be described as a highly misleading self congratulatory press statement Peterborough City Council  has gone on a media offensive following a snap eight day Ofsted inspection of the previously dysfunctional Childrens' Services department (now cosmetically renamed Childrens' Social Care). 

The department was stung into action following a series of highly critical Ofsted inspections and subsequent reports which suggested vulnerable children in Peterborough were not being protected, and indeed two children who should have been fully supported by the then childrens services department died.  The Cabinet member for Childrens Services  Cllr. Sheila Scott OBE made a series of disastrous poorly briefed media appearances, but despite several calls for her resignation, refused to go.  

For the avoidance of doubt here are the ratings as awarded by Ofsted on a four-point scale:

(1) performs poorly
(2) performs adequately (meets minimum standards)
(3) performs well
(4) performs excellently

Peterborough Childrens Services have now moved up a notch ( ie now second from the bottom) to rate an 'adequate' rating.

Ofsted carries out a snapshot review every year of the overall performance of each local authority in England as regards the delivery of children’s services.  It then awards each authority a performance rating in respect of the matters reviewed. This duty is set out in the Education and Inspections Act 2006. LA inspections of safeguarding and looked after children are carried out every three years unless there are particular concerns about performance.

The annual rating (see above) provides a simple summary of the outcomes of the inspections of services and settings carried out by Ofsted during the year and an analysis of the performance data related to that authority.

Ofsted arrived unannounced on 28 January 2013 for an inspection of Children's Services . Following the eight-day inspection, it has been announced today Friday 8 March 2013, that the city council’s social care services are no longer (4) performing poorly or at all but are rated 'adequate.'

Inspectors concluded that 'at the time of the inspection, no children were found to be inadequately protected or at risk of significant harm'. In addition, there weren't any unallocated child protection or children in need cases. Early help services are accessible across the community and family support is used effectively to help our most vulnerable children and families.

The report reads: "Since the last inspection significant changes in senior leadership [Ofsted did not record that the senior management role is in fact still on a hired in fee earning Interim basis led by £1,000-a-day consultant interim director of children’s services Malcolm Newsam, ]  have taken place.

The lessons from that inspection have been taken seriously by the council resulting in a determined drive to address the identified deficits through rapid improvement. The support of politicians and partners has been a key element to the improvement programme. This current inspection can confirm positive progress is being made."

Inspectors reported that the number of social workers has increased from 56 to 81 and case loads have been reduced. Social workers described being supported in their work and listened to with regular supervision and good training.  The quality of practice is judged to be adequate (ie at time of inspection meets minimum standards). Inspectors saw some examples of good work by individual social workers and other staff.  

However, this is not yet sufficiently consistent across the service. Some examples of poor practice were evidenced in assessment and analysis which contributes to this inconsistency.

Overall, the majority of cases seen by inspectors were satisfactory with effective risk assessments and decision making. During the inspection, no children were found to be inadequately protected or at risk of significant harm and there were no child protection or children in need cases which were unallocated.

The single point of contact is responsive and well resourced to meet the current volume of referrals. Decision making in this service is effective and timely, with good management oversight. Professionals report positively about the value of being able to consult with a social worker in the contact and referral team if they have a concern or issue before making a formal referral or to assist in deciding whether another option would be more appropriate for a family.

Representatives of schools, academies, children’s centres and health services spoken to expressed confidence in making referrals to the contact centre. Observations of a MASG and review of contacts and referrals confirmed that universal services generally make appropriate and timely referrals of adequate quality to children’s social care.

An audit of the application of thresholds in November 2012 concluded that in general terms thresholds were being appropriately applied and this inspection concurs with that finding. However, the rate of referrals remains high, suggesting that that there are some children’s needs that could be met by other services. The council is aware of the high number of referrals, which includes re-referrals, and at the time of the inspection was in the process of undertaking an audit to understand this further. A new threshold document has recently been published to support agencies in deciding the most appropriate referral route. For lower levels of concern, universal services find discussions at the MASGs invaluable and highly responsive.

The out of hours service is providing an effective and efficient service.

Leadership and governance at senior level is now strong with evidence of a real drive and energy to address the past failings. The involvement of elected members has become strong through increased confidence, oversight and challenge.

Inspectors also highlighted the following:

The council has a thorough understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and how to maintain and improve current levels of service.

Significant investment from the council has strengthened service provision.

Decisions are made promptly and referrals are appropriately moved into assessments in good time.
There is better targeting to reach and meet the needs of the most vulnerable communities and families which is resulting in better outcomes for these people.

People speak positively on the services they receive. Parents told inspectors they had noticed an improvement in their contact with social workers and the support received.

Children known to social care are visited regularly by social workers who understand them well. In most cases this results in the management of and minimisation of risk which enables children to remain safely at home with their parents.

The pupil referral unit provides effective access to alternative provision for pupils excluded from mainstream school. As a result children are quickly and effectively reintegrated into mainstream school.

The Troubled Families (Connecting Families) programme, although in its early stages, is already showing positive outcomes.

The detailed and wide ranging improvement plan, overseen by the Improvement Board, has been the primary vehicle for the council's recovery phase.

Inspectors also recommended areas for improvement, to guide the council in its improvement strategy. This includes ensuring consistency of practice, supervision and pushing the ‘relentless drive for improvement’.

Sue Westcott, Executive Director of Children's Services, commented:
"We have bolstered the number of social workers so that reasonable workloads have been restored, which means that people needing help are receiving a better standard of service. We have a new leadership team in place which has the expertise and energy to drive improvement and we have new systems in place to check the quality of the work that is being completed. There is however, no room for complacency and we are determined to sustain and build on the improvements already made."

Sheila Scott OBE, in addition to her responsibilities to Peterboroughs vulnerable children is a PCC Cabinet Member, the Conservative Party Election Agent, lives in Rutland but her full day job is as the London based  Chief Executive of the National Care Association,  an organisation representing Private Care Home Owners.

PCC recently closed down all its council run Care Homes, and like Childrens Services, also uses a fee earning Interim director,, at over £1,000:00 a day to do it.  This is part of a typical press statement issued by Ms Scott, The final paragraph on the value of quality ratings makes interesting reading :

Statement on the Social Care White Paper and on Social Care
Spending Reform 
National Care Association [Chief Executive Sheila Scott OBE 07831 597711]  has welcomed the Secretary of State’s proposals for  a National Minimum Eligibility Threshold believing that this will make a real  difference to the current post code lottery of accessing care. 
National Care Association also welcomes the proposal to update the Code of
Conduct for Social Care Workers and notes the proposals for Minimum Care
Training for Social Care staff. There is already a basic requirement so we will
look with interest at the proposals. 
National Care Association will work with the Department of Health to ensure
that the evidence of a quality service is clear and understandable to the
general public. 
I cannot stress enough that an online quality rating will be useless unless it is measuring what is important to service users.” 
ENDS 
For further information please contact Sheila Scott on 07831 597711
National Care Association Registered Office: 45-49 Leather Lane, London EC1N 7TJA 

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