£1m invested in services supporting vulnerable children and families

SERVICES to support children and families in Tameside are to receive additional funding of nearly £1m

Tameside Council has agreed to commit the additional budget over the next two years to help provide more capacity in response to the findings of an Ofsted inspection, which recognised good work taking place in the service but also highlighted areas of improvement.

The focused visit to Tameside children’s services was carried out in May 2021 as part of Ofsted’s wider investigation into how England’s social care system has delivered child-centred practice and care within the context of covid restrictions placed on society.

Dukinfield Town Hall.

The inspectors, who published their findings on 25 June 2001, found many examples of good practice and clear and responsive decision making as part of the service’s ongoing improvement plan. They also found that leaders were open to feedback and learning during the visit.

However, they also pinpointed areas for further improvement while acknowledging Tameside has had consistently higher-than-average rates of COVID-19 and lengthy periods of local and national restrictions throughout the pandemic “that have created significant challenges for senior leaders”.

Tameside Council Executive Member for children and families Cllr Bill Fairfoull said: “I’m pleased to see Ofsted recognised our positive progress and good work with children and families, as part of our ongoing children’s services improvement plan and policy of investment in Early Help. However their visit also highlighted a number of issues that are negatively impacting on improving outcomes for children and – whilst these were largely already recognised and reported in our self-assessment – we want the pace of progress to increase.

Cllr Bill Fairfoull

“We’re determined to accelerate our improvement work to further stabilise and improve the service and I’m pleased we have been able to commit significant additional funding to prioritise and provide the capacity for this. I look forward to seeing further positive impacts on children and families and thank everyone involved in this work.”

Some of the good work highlighted by inspectors included:

  • Child-focused decision-making and support ensure that many disabled children have their needs met through a range of responsive services that work well together
  • Services have adapted to children’s changing needs during the pandemic, with examples seen of clear and responsive decision-making.
  • Foster carers reported that they felt well supported by social workers and by the virtual school, and action was taken quickly if cared for children needed extra help or resources.
  • Children in care are supported to see their families, and their wishes and feelings are taken into consideration. Creative approaches, including the use of the family group conference service to develop arrangements, have enabled greater flexibility to enable families to meet in community-based settings
  • Effective systems were established to ensure strong communication between the local authority and school leaders during the covid pandemic that supported a positive response to many children. Early help services which were already being redeveloped were further enhanced, and provided a focus for coordination of appropriate support for an increasing number of families.
  • Qualified social workers and managers in the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) undertake timely initial screening of children who are referred to children’s social care. They identify those at immediate risk and refer them immediately for social work assessment.
  • For most children, decision-making about next steps is appropriate, with thresholds well applied
  • Children in need and those subject to child protection plans have been visited regularly, with appropriate consideration of whether visits should be remote or face to face.

For further information on Early Help and other services to support children and families see www.tameside.gov.uk/earlyhelp/neighbourhoods

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