Children’s services in Northamptonshire still require improvement

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Council services for Northamptonshire children have improved across all areas, a new report from Ofsted inspectors says.

A five-week inspection has seen the department rated ‘requires improvement’, three years after a damning report that saw it branded ‘inadequate’.

It found that all the weaknesses highlighted in the last inspection report have now been addressed.

In particular, Ofsted praised the improvements in how the service responds to safeguarding concerns, including the multi-agency safeguarding hub, which was established after the ‘inadequate’ rating.

Inspectors also highlighted the “excellent” Social Work Academy, which is helping to recruit high-quality social workers.

However, inspectors did warn that much work needs to continue to reduce the levels of temporary and agency staff so children get consistent care and support.

More than 43 per cent of staff are employed through agencies, including managers at all levels.

The report says: “Children and young people who were spoken to by inspectors repeatedly raised issues about agency workers who stayed for a short period of time, visited infrequently and at every changeover ‘started again’ in trying to get to know them and understand their complex histories.”

Inspectors found the quality of social work practice to be “variable”, with “much that

needs further strengthening”.

In 2015, six basic standards were introduced by the council. As a result, all children and young people are now allocated to social workers

who have more manageable caseloads and who are receiving some supervision.

Children are being visited and their views sought, all cases now have a plan and chronologies, case summaries and visits are noted.

However, in many cases “there were gaps or the

supervision was poor, there were issues about the frequency or quality of visits and

plans were not sufficiently focused,” the report says.

It adds: “Inspectors also found, in the minority of cases,

drift and delay experienced by children and young people.”

More to follow.