Why inspectors say children's services in Lancashire "require improvement"

Lancashire County Council's children's services "require improvement" - but have been given a better rating than the "inadequate" grade they were given three years ago.
Lancashire County Council's children's services "require improvement" - but have been given a better rating than the "inadequate" grade they were given three years ago.

Lancashire County Council's children's services "require improvement", according to regulators.

During a four-week visit, OFSTED inspectors examined a random selection of 200 cases.

They then spoke to children and young people themselves, as well as social workers, council officers and politicians.

READ MORE >>> County council's children's services are better than three years ago - but still require improvement

Here’s what inspectors said about…

...the experience of children who need help and protection

“Children and families are helped and protected at the right level by suitably qualified staff,” the report concluded. “The way in which support is delivered to children in need is no longer a cause for concern.”

But OFSTED found that “social workers are generally better at describing issues than spelling out what needs to change and how this will be achieved.”

Rating: REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT

...the experience of ‘looked after’ children

“Front-line social work practice is more child-focused [and] children are looked after by social workers [with] manageable workloads and who know their children well,” inspectors said.

However, the needs of some children were found not to be properly documented. “The quality of written assessments and care planning for looked after children does not do justice to the depth of social workers’ knowledge of their needs,” the report notes.

Rating: REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT

...the adoption service

Lancashire County Council is committed “to considering adoption for children when they cannot remain living with their birth families”, OFSTED found.

“Overall, children move promptly to live with their prospective adopters; however, there is still unnecessary delay for a small number of children,” inspectors added.

Rating: GOOD

...the experience and progress of care leavers

“Care leavers have a positive and confident view of the council as a corporate parent and appreciate the higher profile they now have,” the inspection report concluded.

“Almost all care leavers now have a plan [for when they leave the service], but they are often still statements of each care leaver’s situation rather than a key tool in planning their future,” it adds.

Rating: REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT

...leadership and management of children’s services

“Lancashire was slow to respond to the findings from the previous inspection,” OFSTED found.

But “the appointment of an executive director of education and children’s services - and a deputy - has been managed well and contributed to the increased pace of change.”

There is now a better balance of newly-qualified and experienced staff,” inspectors concluded.

Rating: REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT

Overall rating: REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT

FACTFILE

At the end of May 2018, there were:

***1,986 children being looked after by Lancashire County Council - 1,168 live with foster families, 192 live in children’s homes and 372 remain with their parents.

***1,699 children formally in need of a specialist children’s service.

***1,212 children who were the subject of a child protection plan.

***90 children who had been adopted in the last 12 months.