An independent watchdog has carried out an unannounced inspection of Brighton and Hove’s child protection work.
He said: “The inspection identified areas of strength and areas of practice that met requirements, with some areas for development.”
Mr Hart said that improvements had been made since a report in July 2010 identified nine areas of concern.
He said: “The nine areas of development that were identified have been built into a comprehensive action plan.
“In all but two areas demonstrable improvements have been made and the minimum requirements of statutory guidance have been at least met.”
He said that the two remaining areas related to the lack of consistent focus on children’s needs when they were assessed and to inconsistent outcomes in children’s plans.
The council’s Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee is expected to discuss the findings at a meeting at Brighton Town Hall at 2pm today (Wednesday 25 January),
The Ofsted letter identified six “areas for development” after the latest inspection. They included
- Inconsistent standards meaning that some children and young people were unnecessarily subject to “child protection processes”
- Some assessments lacking quality and not focusing enough on the individual needs of each child or young person
- Line managers, team managers and independent reviewing officers failing to identify ineffective staff, particularly in complex cases where progress was slow
Mr Hart said: “The areas for development will be specifically considered in any future inspection of services to safeguard children.”
The council said: “Child protection work in Brighton and Hove has improved significantly since the introduction of a single city-wide contact point for referrals last year.”
It said that Mr Hart’s letter also said
- Children who were at risk of suffering significant harm received a prompt and appropriate service from suitably qualified and experienced social workers
- Staff at the new contact point were well trained and well managed, and the new service had had a significant impact on the quality of initial responses to referrals
- Despite high demand, good management had ensured that caseloads for social workers were manageable
- Vulnerable children and young people could expect to receive effective safeguarding services promptly.
The council said: “The inspectors found that children were kept safe and that there were no problems that needed addressing as a matter of priority.
“But they asked for more work to be done to make sure that the focus of the service’s work is always on the needs of the children rather than on procedures and paperwork. “They also called for a more robust approach to reviewing the way cases are being managed where positive outcomes for children are delayed.
The council’s cabinet member for children and young people, Councillor Sue Shanks, said: “There’s no room for complacency with child protection services, but I’m pleased that the inspectors have recognised the very positive progress we’ve made since their previous visit in 2010.
“We introduced a new quality assurance system last summer and this is already addressing the areas for development the inspectors have raised.
“I believe the picture this report paints of a well-managed and effective service for children at risk of harm will help recruit key staff to the city in what is a very competitive market.”