Children suffering from neglect waiting too long for help, warns Doncaster social services report

Children suffering neglect are waiting too long for help from Doncaster social services, Ofsted has warned.

It comes as children’s social workers face increasing caseloads through the coronavirus pandemic – resulting in some youngsters not receiving the right service at the right time.

A ‘focused visit’ from inspectors via videolink to Doncaster Children’s Services found senior leaders responded swiftly to the emerging concern and threat of Covid-19 last year, building on experiences of the 2019 floods response. Doncaster declared a major incident before the first lockdown,

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Increase in demand for children's services in Doncaster during Covid-19 pandemic
STOCK: Domestic violence illustraion.

But Ofsted said senior leaders across the Doncaster Council and the trust reported changes in the senior leadership teams and social work staff throughout the period, which led to a reduction in managerial support, challenge and oversight.

It added: “The pandemic has created additional pressures across children’s social care. Increased demand within the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and rising caseloads in the assessment teams resulted in some children not receiving the right service at the right time.”

It added: “Existing forums were adapted, and new ones created, to focus on emerging needs. This is enabling a proactive, multi-agency partnership response to vulnerable children. Emerging trends have been identified, such as an increase in domestic violence and in alcohol consumption among adults. Additional funds have been set aside from the COVID-19 relief fund to address these issues.”

Ofsted wants improvements to:

> The focus on the quality and impact of intervention in case-file audits.

> The analysis of risk for children experiencing long-term neglect.

> The consistency of recording to provide evidence of multi-agency reviews of plans and progress.

> Visits to care leavers and management’s oversight of the support provided to them.

A new improvement board is in place.

In cases seen by inspectors, there was a ‘robust response’ to domestic abuse concerns and appropriate assessments to inform decision making.

The document added social workers have been well supported to continue visiting children according to levels of risk and need.

But it warned for children experiencing neglect, weaknesses in analysis of risk mean some remain living in these arrangements for too long.

It stated: “Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, direct work is continuing. This is being used effectively to provide support and reassurance to children and their families and to gain an understanding of children’s views and experiences.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.