Reading defends fall in timely social work assessments

The chief executive of Reading Borough Council has defended figures revealing a drop in the percentage of initial social work assessments completed on time.

The authority, which was judged “inadequate” for safeguarding in its Ofsted annual performance assessment and subject to a critical joint area review in January, has undertaken an improvement programme led by chief executive Michael Coughlin.

But at a meeting of the borough’s education and children’s services scrutiny panel, Coughlin was forced to defend figures showing a drop of assessments completed on time from 62.5 per cent to 45.9 per cent between April and May this year.

Responding to concerns from Liberal Democrat councillor and vice-chair of the panel Kirsten Bayes, Coughlin said the authority had recently changed the way it processes and records assessments to comply with national guidelines.

He explained: “Until recently, the social worker assigned the initial assessment had to complete it within seven days to be classified as on time.

“As part of our work to improve we have introduced a requirement for team managers to sign off each assessment within the seven-day assessment period as well.”

Coughlin attributed the drop to managers not signing off assessments in time even if they had been completed. He said the lack of a team manager in this period had also led to a backlog of cases.

Coughlin added: “The team is working hard to ensure that all new assessments are completed and signed off on time.

“We are confident that no children are being placed at undue risk because of this improvement in our process and recording, which have enabled greater management oversight of cases.”