Official watchdog Ofsted has published a report today (Monday 22 June) which said: “Children’s services in Brighton and Hove require improvement to be good.
“There are no widespread or serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm.
“However, the authority (Brighton and Hove City Council) is not yet delivering good protection and help for children, young people and families.”
To read the report, click here.
Ofsted said: “Brighton and Hove City Council has made a lot of progress since its last inspection but some things still need to be improved.
“When children are at risk of harm, social workers recognise it and quickly take all the correct actions to protect them.
“Managers need to become quicker at organising the meetings where it is decided whether a child needs to have a child protection plan.
“Social workers, police and other professionals in the city work well together to know which young people are at risk of being sexually exploited.
“If a young person is being exploited, they take the right actions to protect them.
“The council needs to improve the way it helps families to continue with the changes they have made after their children’s child protection plans end.
“The managers of social workers need to improve their oversight to ensure that children’s plans are making a positive difference.
“Social workers who inspectors talked to know the children they work with well and could show inspectors the work they had done with them.
“Social workers are good at quickly finding new families for children who need to be adopted. They are also good at explaining adoption to children and making sure they understand why they can’t stay with their birth family.
“Children who are disabled have social workers who understand their needs and are good at assessing with them what services will help them and their families best.
“Children in care in Brighton and Hove do well at school and achieve good results in their tests. They do not get excluded very often and their attendance is good. Social workers support them to attend regularly if they find that difficult.
“The council needs to recruit more foster carers in Brighton and Hove, especially for young people who have many difficulties.
“When young people leave care they receive good support and are helped to become independent at a pace that suits them.
“Personal advisers are very good at keeping in touch with young people when they leave care.”
Ofsted noted: “The prevalence of domestic abuse, parental drug or alcohol misuse and the impact of parental mental ill-health are known.
“Of the children made subject to a child protection plan from April 2014 to March 2015, 51.5 per cent featured domestic abuse and 35.7 per cent recorded parental mental ill-health.
“Parental drug and alcohol misuse were factors in 29.6 per cent and 23.5 per cent, respectively.”
The inspectors also said: “At 31 March 2015, 1,479 children had been identified through assessment as being formally in need of a specialist children’s service. This is an increase from 1,412 at 31 March 2014.
“At 31 March 2015, 309 children and young people were the subject of a child protection plan. This is an increase from 288 at 31 March 2014.
“At 31 March 2015, 16 children were living in a privately arranged fostering placement. This is a reduction from 17 at 31 March 2014.
“At 31 March 2015, 481 children were being looked after by the local authority (a rate of 95.2 per 10,000 children). This is an increase from 465 (92 per 10,000 children) at 31 March 2014.
“Of this number, 268 (or 55.7 per cent) live outside the local authority area.”
The chair of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, Councillor Tom Bewick, said: “We have to do more to ensure that the city’s 50,000 children and young people receive an outstanding service from the local authority.
“As a parent and recently elected member, I know that our residents will have high expectations of such an important, sensitive and challenging aspect of the council’s work.
“That said, I am reassured by the inspectorate’s findings in other parts of our work supporting children, which they generally found to be good.
“The quality of our work to identify and address both child sexual exploitation and the risks of radicalisation has been acknowledged.
“Inspectors noted the high levels of satisfaction our adopters have expressed with our services.
“We are acutely aware of both Ofsted’s and the city’s high expectations.
“We have already begun to put in place measures to act on areas of weakness, which will involve the whole council and wider community becoming a real champion for the attainment of outstanding children’s services in future.
“We are also very aware of the need to recruit more foster carers.
“I’m determined to secure a good rating with the ambition to become an outstanding authority, as rated by Ofsted, within the next three years.
“We will not accept second best for our children, young people and families.”
Pinaki Ghoshal, executive director of children’s services, said: “Our staff work very hard to protect children who are at risk and to help improve the lives of families who are having difficulties.
“We understand the need to change the way we manage and deliver some of our services and will continue to make further improvements.
“I’m pleased that Ofsted has recognised that we are already addressing all the recommendations they have made and that we are on the right path to making the improvements necessary.”
The report also said: “The current leadership team has implemented well-targeted plans effectively and made steady improvements to the quality of children’s social care.
“However, some core functions still require improvement to be good. The senior management team has recognised this.
“It is now making good use of performance and quality assurance processes and had identified the areas for improvement, recommended in this report, prior to the inspection.
“One of the areas requiring improvement is that too many children are becoming subject to a child protection plan for a second or subsequent time as a result of child in need work not being sufficiently robust.
“Plans to address these deficits through a new model of practice are well advanced.
“Positive improvements include the effective Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), where appropriate child protection thresholds are consistently well applied.
“Elected members are passionate and actively involved as corporate parents. They engage well with young people and take their views seriously.
“Members take an active role in quality assurance activity and have an appropriate level of understanding of frontline practice.
“Since the last inspection, the senior management team has largely changed.
“The vast majority of recommendations have been met but two issues remain.
“The quality of supervision and management oversight at team level remain as areas for improvement despite significant investment in specialised training.
“Examples of where improved practice is now embedded include the independent reviewing service and the routine consideration by social workers of children and families’ diverse needs.”
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