Ofsted has said Sandwell’s Children’s Trust is improving - but warned some cases of neglect are still not being identified early enough.

The findings of the watchdog's latest monitoring report were published this week and evaluate progress in the service, labelled ‘inadequate’ last year.

Inspectors reported improvements in management systems and in recruiting permanent staff but they also said there some social workers were confused about at what point the trust accepts a referral of a child, young person or  family.

In a letter outlining his findings, Ofsted inspector Peter McEntee said:  “This leads to delay in recognising neglect, in some cases, and wrong decisions made about the way forward, or what level services should be offered.”

Child cruelty (posed by model)
 

But he added: “In the majority of cases, however, thresholds for both contacts and subsequent decisions on referrals are appropriate, timely and result in the provision of services quickly.

“No cases were seen where there was an immediate risk to a child and action was not being taken.”

Senior managers said the inspection had shown that the service is improving overall.

The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith, Chair of Sandwell’ s Children’s Trust, said: “The recent feedback from Ofsted shows we have made a real move in the right direction and the enormous amount of hard work we have put in is beginning to be recognised.

“Inspectors have given us some really positive feedback, we have a strong performance framework in place and we are generally making the right decisions. A lot more work needs to be done to embed this good practice into what we do with every child and family.

 

“We have made good progress but there's plenty more hard work that needs to be done and I know our staff are up to this.”

Last July, the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed  the trust was having to cope with 800 vulnerable children, up by 200 from March 2017.

In November it reported the service had predicted a £3.6 million deficit by March this year.

Responding to the latest findings, Chief Executive Frances Craven said: “The latest visit from Ofsted has given us some really positive feedback.

“Inspectors looked at one of the most fundamental parts of the work we do - the first point of contact people have with Sandwell Children's Trust.

“We have made improvements in this area and are giving support to families more quickly than before. We now must focus on making sure that support is consistent.

“We have a more stable workforce and temporary workers have chosen to take permanent jobs with the trust proving we are now an employer of choice.

“Managers know the challenges we face and recognise where we are doing things well. Managers also share our vision for improvement and we will continue to make changes to provide a better service for Sandwell families.”

The findings will now be reported back to Sandwell council.