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Liverpool’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services improving, says Ofsted

Ofsted has welcomed measures being taken by Liverpool City Council to improve its children’s services, which were rated as “inadequate” in May last year.

Its newly appointed management team “has implemented a clear improvement plan” which is backed by “significant financial investment”, said inspectors following a monitoring visit in December last year.

Action taken includes the appointment of Jenny Turnross as permanent corporate director of children’s and young people’s services in August last year.

She “has a good understanding of what needs to change, and she has worked at pace to bring about some early improvements”.

Improvements include “promptly” dealing with children in need concerns and ensuring that risks to children “are quickly recognised and responded to in a timely way by staff”.

Inspectors also noted thresholds for intervening are being “appropriately applied” which “was not routinely happening” when they handed the department its lowest ranking last year.

Other improvements cited by inspectors following their monitoring visit include co-locating early help and domestic abuse workers to improve partnership working.

However, the quality of child and family assessments “is still weak”. Concerns include not involving children and considering their specific needs, including cultural or language requirements.

Also, historical risk factors and their impact on children are not being effectively considered when assessing cases.

Too often incidents are looked at “in isolation”, especially when domestic abuse and substance misuse are issues in children’s lives, warn inspectors.

These ongoing problems are hindering efforts to ensure children’s needs are swiftly responded to while they are being assessed,” they add.

“More needs to be done to address this significant practice shortfall,” warn inspectors in their letter to Turnross.

Another concern is that social workers “do not always know about the range of services available to children and families” in the city, including those provided by early help specialists.

“As a result, some children do not benefit from the involvement of specialist agencies that can help to reduce risks to them and respond to their needs,” say inspectors.

“This means that the quality of social work intervention during a child and family assessment is too inconsistent, and it does not have a positive impact on children’s lives.”

Inspectors also raise concerns that assessment team “caseloads are still too high” but noted that additional social work teams were due to start this year.

“I am pleased that the inspectors have found that we have made improvements in a short space of time, and they recognise that we know the areas of weakness we still need to address,” said Liverpool’s cabinet member for children’s services Liz Parsons.

“Our staff are embracing the changes we are making to deliver on our ambition to provide the best possible services for young people, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment and effort.

“This was never going to be a quick fix, but we are laying strong foundations to build on the improvements we are making in our drive to make children’s services in Liverpool one of the best in the country.”

Ofsted’s report last year found there had been a “deterioration in the quality of practice” since its last full inspection in 2018 and “identified serious weaknesses for children who need help and protection”.