Steady progress made to improve 'inadequate' Northamptonshire children's services, says Ofsted
Council welcomes praise and areas to keep working on while launching social worker recruitment drive
Steady progress is being made to improve services for children in care in Northamptonshire since being rated as 'inadequate', according to Ofsted.
A visit to the county by the education watchdog's inspector in February found several areas of encouragement as well as some challenges, a letter published today (Wednesday, March 24) states.
As a result, Northamptonshire Children's Trust is today launching a new campaign to hire more social workers to make things more settled for children in care.
Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for children, families and education Fiona Baker said: “Our children are our future and making sure that every child in the county has the best start in life is one of the most important things that we can do as a society.
“The past 12 months has been extremely challenging for everyone and I am delighted that children’s services in the county are continuing to improve despite being in these very difficult times."
The county council's children's services was given the worst possible rating by Ofsted in June 2019 and has been visited by inspectors twice before the one in February.
That was the first since the formation of the children’s trust on November 1, 2020 - an independent organisation to look after children's services in the county.
Her Majesty's inspector Julie Knight found progress is gathering momentum since then, building on the positive changes that were already taking place.
Ofsted commented that workforce stability was improving and the number of caseloads social workers had was steadily reducing.
The comprehensive improvement plan to drive change was also noted and it was also recognised that the majority of children in care lived in well-matched placements.
In addition, the 'inspirational' children in care council was recognised for its work to make improvements alongside senior leaders.
Other positives included children in care benefiting from having time with their families promoted and prioritised with social workers carrying out well-balanced Covid-19 risk assessments.
Work to help unaccompanied asylum-seeking children establish contact with their families and prompt multi-agency responses to track children that go missing from care were also singled out for praise.
Councillor Baker said: “Northamptonshire Children’s Trust is carrying on the good work that has already started and now we have a team in place that is committed to driving the change which is necessary.
“Areas of improvement have been noted but these are consistent with elements we considered needed addressing and plans are in place to make changes.
“Real progress is being made at all levels and I’m confident that this will continue.”
Some areas of improvement were found though, including children still coming into care too late or in an emergency and that finding suitable placements for them remained a challenge.
Plus some children in care still have too many changes of social worker, prompting the recruitment campaign.
Children’s trust chairman Julian Wooster said: “I’m pleased that Ofsted have noted that Northamptonshire Children’s Trust is continuing to build on what has already been achieved through the good work which has taken place in the county to date.
“The trust is committed to improving the lives of all children in the county and I am determined that we do as much as we can to deliver the best possible services with the best possible people.
"Colin Foster, our chief executive, will personally contact every single person who applies to be a social worker with Northamptonshire Children’s Trust.”