Cheshire social services damned in report

YOUNG people could be at risk of harm because of delays in assessments for children in troubled situations by social workers.

That was the warning in an Ofsted report into Warrington Borough Council’s safeguarding children services department.

It also highlighted delays in allocating cases that had been transferred from the referral and assessment team through to the planned intervention team.

The report was conducted after an unannounced visit to the department in June.

Inspectors also said that the frequency and quality of supervision of social work staff was insufficient with a lack of case management oversight and decision making.

They also saw no established or consistent arrangements for monitoring or auditing case files by line managers and senior managers.

Kath O’Dwyer, executive director of children and young people’s services, said: “As part of their review, Ofsted identified clear strengths but also identified some areas for priority action. In addition they outlined a number of areas for development.”

Some of those strengths included the hard working ethos of the staff who are committed to improving children’s lives, effective working with other agencies and clear information available to the public about services for children and families.

The report also said that access to the social care team that deals with initial contacts is effectively managed and resourced.

But it states that the capacity of the referral and assessment team is insufficient to meet the demands of the work and that social workers, including recently qualified ones, had high case loads.

Inspectors also saw complex work such as assessments and court reports being completed by social work students, which does not comply with the guidance in ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’.

They added that management of the referral and assessment team had weaknesses.

The report highlighted three areas of priority action for the council that covered the delays in completing and then allocating cases and improving case management from managers.

Mrs O’Dwyer added: “While I am concerned at the deficits which Ofsted identified, I would like to reassure the community that the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people in Warrington remains our priority. As such, we have put in place a detailed and comprehensive action plan to ensure that every recommendation from the report is addressed both quickly and appropriately.”