‘Tangible progress’ to children’s services in Northamptonshire but still work to be done, says Ofsted

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Officers inspected the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust in July as part of a standard monitoring visit

A visit to Northamptonshire’s children’s services from Ofsted has resulted in the watchdog saying there has been ‘tangible progress’ but there is still work to be done.

The routine monitoring visit took place in July this year after the children’s services at Northamptonshire County Council were graded as ‘inadequate’ in June 2019.

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During the most recent visit, inspectors reviewed processes in place, inspected evidence and spoke to staff and children.

One Angel Square.One Angel Square.
One Angel Square.

Following the visit, inspectors wrote to North and West Northamptonshire Councils highlighting the improvements in the Northamptonshire Children’s Trust (NCT), but also pointing out where there is still work to be done.

The letter, published on Ofsted’s website today (September 9), said: “Throughout the challenges of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, senior leaders have continued to focus relentlessly on improving practice.

“This has resulted in tangible progress, which continues to gain traction in improving the experiences, progress and outcomes for children.

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“The quality of social work practice is improving in the children’s safeguarding and disabled children’s teams, although it still varies in quality.

“Overall caseloads have reduced. However, senior leaders are aware that some social workers’ caseloads remain too high, and that this is impacting on the quality and consistency of the work that they do with children and families.”

In the letter, Ofsted also said there were regular child protection and child in need reviews, with good attendance from multi agencies which shared information effectively between colleagues and with parents.

Despite the progress Ofsted noted that improvements were still variable in areas of the service and more consistency of quality was required.

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More could also be done around ensuring children’s plans, contingency plans and safety plans were more focused and specific towards youngsters’ needs and kept updated as circumstances changed.

Councillor Scott Edwards, North Northamptonshire Council’s executive member for children, families, education and skills, said: “I’m delighted that children’s services continue to be on an upwards trajectory with improvements despite the very challenging conditions of the past 18 months.

“Improving life chances for every child is a key priority for us and we’re all absolutely committed to making sure that we continue on this journey.

“Progress has been made in some challenging areas and I’m confident that we have the right leaders and staff in place to continue to drive forward further positive change.”

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Councillor Fiona Baker, cabinet member for Children, Families, Education and Skills at West Northamptonshire Council, added: “These latest findings from Ofsted are really encouraging and reflect the ongoing efforts of all our colleagues at the children’s trust and councils who are working tirelessly to improve children’s services.

“We know there is still much work to be done and this latest feedback from Ofsted is invaluable as we continue to work hard to make these services better for children across Northamptonshire."

Ofsted will inspect the trust again in due course.