The quality of social work in Sheffield is ‘too variable’ and some children do not get support soon enough, according to Ofsted inspectors.
The education watchdog has visited Sheffield Council’s children’s services department for a second time after a internal review in 2017 found ‘inconsistent’ social work practice and management oversight, which was resulting in ‘ineffective support to improve children’s lives’.
The first visit in April found that responses to safeguarding issues and request for families were timely and thorough.
The second visit in October was to help the council continue to improve on its work.
Inspectors looked at the authority’s arrangements for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan, with specific focus on children on the edge of care.
They found that a recognised model of social work practice has been introduced, along with a new electronic recording system, but it is too early to see the full impact of these.
Inspector Neil Penswick has written to Jayne Ludlam, the council’s executive director for people services, outlining the inspectors findings.
He said: “Overall, inspectors saw some effective work in supporting children on the edge of care, underpinned by increased staffing and strengthened formal decision-making processes.
“This is done, for example, through focused panels chaired by senior managers and supported by legal services. Immediate safeguarding issues are responded to well.
“However, the quality of social work practice remains too variable.
“There are delays experienced by a small number of children where the cumulative effects of poor parenting are not identified soon enough so children do not always receive the support they need in a timely way.
“Senior managers are tightening their grip effectively on the consistency of social work practice.
“This is leading to improved outcomes for most children, but the quality of the service response is not yet good for all children.”
The letter outlines areas for improvement including consistency in the quality of assessments, the understanding and use of the model of social work practice, the quality of legal planning minutes and pre-proceedings letters and and the provision.
Sheffield Council has been contacted for comment.