Social workers faced with assessing up to 50 children in Northamptonshire each are 'drowning in cases', report finds

At the time of the inspection, 267 children in Northamptonshire had not been assigned a social worker - leaving them at 'potential' risk of harm.
At the time of the inspection, 267 children in Northamptonshire had not been assigned a social worker - leaving them at 'potential' risk of harm.

Northamptonshire's social workers say they are 'drowning' in caseloads and are faced with assessing the safety of up to 50 children each, a report has found.

A damning report of the county council's children's services today laid bare that its social workers are struggling to handle 'unmanageable caseloads', leaving Northamptonshire's children 'at risk of harm'.

The Ofsted report, published today, says overall the children's department services have significantly declined since its last inspection in 2016.

It reads: "Social work caseloads in the first response teams are too high with many social workers responsible for between 30 and 50 children.

"Social workers reported to inspectors that they were 'overwhelmed' and 'drowning'.

"As a result, visits to children are not sufficient, and rushed home visits lead to superficial, weak assessments, which results in delays in providing support."

Meanwhile, at the time of visit (October 17), 267 children were in need of a visit and had not been allocated a social worker. These cases were often not assessed to see if the child was at risk, leaving them at 'potential risk of harm'.

At the same time, the social service for children was criticised for over-relying on temporary agency workers, and that constant changes in social workers and managers meant children experience 'unacceptable drift and delay in having their needs met.

Northamptonshire County Council has been ordered to take 'swift, decisive action' and have been given 70 days to produce a plan.

It comes after the authority was handed two rounds of Section 114 notices this year - which is an order from the central Government to stop all 'non-essential' spending.

But the authority was, in fact, dealing with 551 cases where children had not been assigned a social worker in January, before the spending caps were put in place. Although this figure had halved by October, inspectors say it has 'stubbornly' stuck between 200 and 300.

Opposition parties in Northamptonshire warned children's services would be hit the hardest by the notices in February and July.