Ofsted gives fresh update on Liverpool Council children's services

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-Credit: (Image: PA)

Liverpool Council’s children’s services department has taken steps forward but social work is “not consistently strong enough” yet, according to inspectors.

Last May, Ofsted delivered scathing findings into performance by city officials as to how they kept children safe. Services were deemed inadequate, with “serious weaknesses” found within the Cunard team.

After their latest visit, officials have delivered their view on progress within social services in the city - praising senior leaders but underlining the need for further improvements.

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The observation from Ofsted will be discussed at the next meeting of the children and young people’s scrutiny committee. Representatives from the education organisation spent two days in the city in March.

Inspectors Kathryn Grindrod and Rebecca Dubbins said since the appointment of Jenny Turnross as corporate director in August 2023, she has “continued to drive improvement with pace, determination and a strong sense of purpose.” A new senior leadership team has been established and were said to be responding effectively to challenges from the improvement board.

Since the initial assessment, additional investment has increased capacity in social work teams. As a result, Ofsted said timely progress has been made to improve the quality of services for children in need and children who are the subject of child protection plans.

Additionally, risk of harm to children is recognised more promptly than it was a year ago. Senior leaders are “acutely aware” more work is required to improve the overall quality of social work, laying the foundations for it to continue.

Despite this, there is still inconsistency in the quality and impact of social work practice for children.

The timeliness of assessments has improved during the last six months, which means that children’s needs are identified and responded to more promptly.

Some assessments were said to still not be consistently strong enough to understand children’s experiences, with an over-reliance on what is reported by parents, without thorough evaluation of all available evidence in relation to children’s experiences. Children’s individual identities are not always properly considered in assessments.

Inspectors said: “Senior leaders were aware of the shortfalls in the quality of some assessments prior to this visit, and work is already under way to address this.” In the initial visit to Liverpool Council last year, strict concerns were raised about the risk of harm to children.

The fresh report said immediate issues are now promptly identified and appropriately responded to by social workers. Additionally, practitioners now have a more detailed understanding of domestic abuse and neglect than was the case a year ago.

The document added: “However, for a very small number of children who experience alleged physical abuse, child protection medical examinations are not always considered in line with child protection procedures. Senior leaders acknowledged that a more consistent approach is required in these circumstances, to ensure children receive appropriate support and treatment.”

While children are seen more regularly by social workers, the sessions remain too variable according to education officials and social work practice is “not consistently strong enough.” The report added: “Social workers report that they now have more time to develop as practitioners and to improve the quality of their work with children and families.

“They remain optimistic about recent developments and the direction of further improvement activity.”

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