Ofsted inspectors have today (Thursday 21 December 2017) recognised significant improvements to children’s services in Manchester and ruled that they are no longer ‘inadequate.’
They conducted a rigorous re-inspection this autumn which followed on from their last full inspection report published in September 2014. That previous inspection had classed services as ‘inadequate’ citing concerns about social worker caseloads, delays in the assessments of children potentially at risk and the quality of management oversight.
Manchester City Council and partner agencies acknowledged the shortcomings and produced a comprehensive improvement plan – committing to invest in improvements including more frontline social workers to reduce caseloads and ensure more timely assessments plus extra managers to increase challenge and support. An extra 86 social workers and 14 managers have been recruited. The new inspection has concluded that this sustained action has made a positive and widespread difference.
The Ofsted report says: “Inspectors saw good evidence of improvement across all service areas. Strong leadership, an ambitious and well-articulated vision…and robust governance arrangements are leading to improved outcomes for children and young people in need of protection, for children in care and for care leavers.”
Their overall verdict was that children’s services in Manchester ‘require improvement to be good’ – a step up from ‘inadequate’ with ‘good’ as the next category to aim for.
Ofsted classed both Leadership, Management and Governance and Adoption Performance as good – a considerable improvement from ‘inadequate’ for both categories in the previous inspection.
Their report finds that: “Leaders and elected members demonstrate a shared responsibility and an excellent understanding of the strengths and areas for development…They know what good services look like and how outcomes for children and families can be improved.”
However, inspectors said services for children who need help and protection, support for looked after children and care leavers require improvement to be good.
They found that the quality of social care practice, while significantly improved, is still inconsistent but they recognised that supervision of social workers and managers is improving and note that “the local authority has made clear progress in embedding a strong performance culture.”
They also found that a small number of recently qualified social workers had caseloads which were considered too high for their level of experience. This is being addressed, with reduced caseloads and increased support for their development.
Partnership work between the Council and other agencies in the city involved in children’s welfare is praised as “strong.”
Councillor Sheila Newman, Executive Member for Children’s Services for Manchester City Council, said: “We are very pleased that Ofsted have seen clear evidence of improvements since the last inspection and the positive difference that is being made to lives of Manchester children.
“This endorsement is the result of commitment, focus and sheer hard work by everyone involved in this process – from senior officers and members to frontline staff.
“This inspection result is a cause for satisfaction but not celebration. This is not the end of our improvement journey and there is absolutely no room for complacency. ‘Requires improvement’ means exactly that. We said at the time of the last inspection that we would not rest until services were rated ‘good’ and we remain firmly fixed on that goal. We are making clear progress but we are determined to keep improving to ensure we are delivering the best possible services for our young people.
“We know what we need to get there, have plans in place and our focus now is pressing on with them.”
The Council will now produce a detailed action plan building on its own existing ambitions for services as well as addressing inspectors’ recommendations for further improvements. These include continuing to support the development of managers through mentoring and tailored training; sustainably reducing the demand for services through early intervention and purposeful planning for looked after children’s long-term futures and supporting the development of social work staff to ensure practice is consistently good.