Home Children and Young People Inspection findings sharpen Knowsley’s focus on improving services for children

Inspection findings sharpen Knowsley’s focus on improving services for children

by Gemma Melling

It has been confirmed that Knowsley Council will retain its ‘Requires Improvement’ judgement following a recent Ofsted Inspection of Children’s Services in the borough.

Inspectors assessed the service against a number of criteria – the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families; the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection and the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers.

The full inspection – the first in the borough since 2017 – noted that although the council had sustained some of the improvements it had made to processes and practice, services had not continued to improve at the pace and level needed. The inspectors recognised the council’s proactive changes to leadership and development of new improvement plans but concluded it was too early to see the benefit of this work.

Inspectors noted that children who need support are identified and effective systems are in place to review their progress. If a child is at immediate risk, this is recognised and responded to effectively. In addition, children at risk of exploitation benefit from thoughtful and persistent work by specialist social workers and these established relationships and good-quality work lead to a reduction in risk.

Inspectors also noted that our social workers build positive relationships with our children in care and have a good understanding of their backgrounds, needs, wishes and feelings. In addition, workloads were manageable and that they felt listened to, supported and appreciated the good-quality training they could access.

Cllr Margaret Harvey, Knowsley Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services commented: “Naturally, we want our services for children to be the very best that they possibly can be, and this is something we continue to work on as a major priority.

“We have been on a significant improvement journey in recent years and striving to make further improvements remains a key priority for us.

“Since our last inspection, we have implemented new processes and procedures and made significant changes to our Management Team. We have ensured that we have protected budgets as well as ploughing investment into the service and our focus now is on driving forward further improvements which result in positive outcomes and improve the lives of our children and families.

“Our staff are pivotal to the services we provide and ensuring they are listened to and supported has been a key priority for us – something the inspectors also highlighted.

“Clearly the challenges that COVID-19 has placed on us has impacted on our improvement journey and our priority was to support our children and families during this incredibly difficult time. It also meant that during this time, we were unable to dedicate the time and resources to continue with our improvement journey.  However, Inspectors did note that council and partner agencies worked well together to ensure children were kept safe.

“Our focus is resolutely on this major priority and on working harder than ever for our children and young people.”

In addition to highlighting the £3.7m of investment in Children’s Services, Inspectors also noted that a service re-structure had introduced an additional management level providing greater oversight and supervision in key areas, with a training and development plan also in operation along with an improved social work model which had been successfully embedded.

The areas for improvement identified through the inspection are aligned to our own self-assessment of the service. These include effective recording of meetings in case files with a focus on outcomes and improving children’s lives along with ensuring care leavers are better prepared for adulthood.

The findings from the inspection report have been noted and an action plan has been developed to accelerate improvements, support and services to our children and families.