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Assessments of vulnerable children are improving – Ofsted

The quality of care assessment for vulnerable children and young people is improving despite key issues still persisting in common areas, according to an Ofsted survey published today (4 August).

The good news follows a number of recent reports identifying generally poor-quality assessment across several councils.

Quality assessment is an important component in building an accurate picture of a child’s circumstances in order to tailor support to their specific needs.

Without proper assessment, social workers may have trouble identifying whether children are being harmed or at risk of harm, hindering necessary action to protect them.

Ofsted’s 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. As our report shows, good quality assessment is predicated on the local authority and other agencies ensuring that there is an accurate and ongoing assessment of need so that children and families are supported every step of the way.”

Ofsted inspectors visited 10 local authorities to examine 123 cases scoping the views of children, parents, carers and professionals from each authority.

In 63% of the cases, professionals carried out assessment promptly and followed the right timeline for individual children and families. However in 25% of cases assessment had not been timely enough and several children were left in potentially harmful situations.

In most cases, social workers were talking and listening to children in order to inform analyses in their assessments.  As a result these assessments better reflected the views of parents and close family members, who told inspectors that social workers were now spending more time listening to their children.

They also made an effort to include views of other professionals in their assessments and, more importantly, did not wait for a review to be complete before offering help where needed.

But despite steady progress inspectors still identified common areas that required improvement to ensure consistency of results.

In eight local authority areas there were often significant delays in accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Additionally some social workers did not routinely share assessments with families or children, or otherwise employed unclear language and jargon that made it difficult for families to understand important judgments and decisions.

In most cases reviewed workers carried out assessments individually and rarely updated written assessments when new information surfaced, hampering plans to support children based on their needs.

Inspectors also found that 21% of subsequent support plans were not clear on how the interests of children would remain a priority and what help would be given to families.

Wilshaw said he hopes these findings will “contribute to the learning and understanding around this important area of work”.

(Top image c. Dominic Lipinski, PA Wire)


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