Ofsted inspectors have praised the timely and diligent way that social workers and other frontline staff have carried out their duties to help ensure that children and young people are kept safe during the lockdown.
The findings were the result of a focused visit carried out on 13 October using the same methodology as an inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) framework. The visit looked at the quality and impact of decision-making in help and protection, children in care and care leavers service, together with the impact of leadership on service development.
One of the main findings was the timeliness of the Trust’s actions when dealing with children, young people and families. ‘Referrals are reviewed and responded to promptly in the multi-agency safeguarding hub’, ‘families in need of early help received timely and appropriate support’ and ‘when children may need protection, enquiries are timely and well coordinated’. It was also found that effective use of partnerships and short-term, direct interventions made a real difference to the lives of children and families.
The inspectors made reference to the high number of cases that social workers held but found that, despite this, they still ‘maintained consistently sound practice’. It is a testament to the commitment of social workers that visits continued to be undertaken and children continued to be supported and kept safe.
The Virtual School also came in for high praise with the inspectors stating that ‘foster carers and school leaders hold the Virtual School in high regard and have valued the regular communication and support they have received to assist children to continue their learning at home as well as at school.’
The inspectors felt that the Trust responded quickly to the pandemic by ensuring that children were seen early on by social workers, allowing greater flexibility with future visits. Leaders ensured Covid risk assessments were in place for all children and acquired appropriate PPE and IT equipment early on to help facilitate a mixture of face-to-face, doorstep and virtual visits.
Finding appropriate placements had often been a challenge for the Trust and lockdown had made this harder, however the inspectors found that children were still living in high quality homes that met their needs and provided stability. Where there were potential shortfalls, social workers and foster carers had anticipated these and mitigated against them.
The inspectors found that there was a concerted and coordinated effort by leaders to anticipate and put plans in place to ensure the continuity of frontline service delivery to children in Slough. Furthermore, they highlighted that those leaders had a clear focus on ensuring that children are safeguarded.
“We are very encouraged by this feedback, although we know we have more work to do to improve the service and better meet the needs of children, young people and families,“ said Eleni Ioannides, interim chief executive at Slough Children’s Services Trust. “All staff here in Slough have a lot to be proud of for what they have achieved during this very challenging year and the effort they have put in to make sure children and young people in Slough feel safe and supported.”