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Ofsted finds improvement in assessment of vulnerable children

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Councils’ care assessments for vulnerable children and young people are improving, Ofsted has found.

The inspectorate visited 10 councils, examined 123 cases and sought opinions from partner agencies after its social care annual report for 2012-13 found concerns about the poor quality of assessments.

In its report published yesterday, The Quality of Assessment for Children in Need of Help, Ofsted said it had found steady improvement.

Inspectors found that in 63% of cases reviewed, professionals were carrying out assessments promptly and social workers were using children’s views to inform their analysis and were not left waiting for an assessment to be completed before offering help.

In 78% of assessments, the views of parents were taken into account and parents consistently told inspectors that social workers had changed their approach and now spent more time listening to parents, the report said.

It also noted that local authorities had responded to the concerns raised in a number of serious case reviews that the views and influence of significant males were not considered well in assessments. In most cases examined, inspectors found that workers were ensuring that the views of significant males were reflected.

Sir Michael Wilshaw

Sir Michale Wilshaw

Ofsted chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said: “The improvement in the quality of care assessments is encouraging. It’s clear that local authorities and partners are taking this work seriously.

“However, there is still more to do before we can be assured that all children and families are receiving the high standards of care required.”

In a quarter of cases tracked, assessments had not been timely while in eight of the ten local authority areas there were sometimes significant delays in accessing child and adolescent mental health services.

They also found that 21% of subsequent support plans did not clearly demonstrate the help that children and their families would receive.

LGA deputy chair David Simmonds (Con) said: “This report shows the improvement councils have achieved in social work practice and is testament to the hard work of local authorities across the country, but it also highlights that there is more to be done.

“Councils acknowledge the need for improvement in children’s mental health services, provided by the NHS, which has for a long time been a ‘Cinderella service’ without the capacity to meet need. With councils taking the reins of public health work we are beginning to see progress in partnership with local GPs ‎as inadequate national services are redesigned locally.”

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