06 May 2011

An inspection of safeguarding children services in Northamptonshire has judged the county to be adequate and demonstrating adequate capacity for improvement.

Ofsted inspectors carried out their inspection of Northamptonshire’s safeguarding services and services for looked-after children in March.

The inspection examined the collective contribution of all local councils, health, police and the voluntary sector in securing positive outcomes for children and young people.

In their findings published today (6 May), Ofsted found no areas requiring intervention and highlighted the commitment to keeping frontline services intact despite the financial pressures currently affecting the public sector.

The Ofsted report highlights several strengths:

  • It found that county council senior managers and partners are committed to securing the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in the county.
  • It referred to some very good social work and other professional practice in Northamptonshire, with dedicated and skilled staff at all levels working across services to provide a well-focused care and support for looked after children
  • It judged both the county’s Children and Young People’s Shadow Board and the county council’s children’s rights team to be outstanding
  • It commented on the strength of the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership
  • It acknowledged the positive response from children, young people and families who receive services
  • It referred to evidence of attention to equality and diversity in the assessments and case records seen by inspectors

The report identified a number of areas where improvement can be made, including the need to address:

  • The impact of services to support and improve the economic wellbeing of looked after children, young people and care leavers is inadequate
  • Outcomes for young people leaving care are inadequate
    In both cases, Ofsted has proposed the development of a coherent strategy for those services.

Councillor Andrew Grant, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “This report represents an accurate appraisal of our safeguarding services and the partnership arrangements that exist to protect our children and young people from harm. There are no surprises in the report.

“The report acknowledges the recent changes we’ve introduced to transform the way our front-line services operate and while it’s too early for Ofsted to see the full impact of those changes, the inspectors recognise that we have adopted the right approach and are travelling in the right direction.”

Cllr Grant added: “We’re happy to take on board and address those areas that Ofsted has identified as needing development so we can strengthen and build on the work of our dedicated, professional frontline social care teams.“

“We are concerned about the inadequate ratings for our leaving care services and or the economic wellbeing outcome but I would like to assure people that our own self-assessments had already identified the shortcomings in these areas and we were already taking steps to address them.”

Improvements made by Northamptonshire County Council include the creation of an area-based model of providing services to children and families resulting in locally-based multi-disciplinary teams incorporating social care, education and the health services.

In addition, a transformation programme has seen the replacement of five separate referral processes around the county with one central dedicated team within the county council’s customer service centre now providing a consistent responses to referrals

The rollout out of the CAF system (Common Assessment Framework) has helped to identify children in need earlier and start to take preventative action to address their needs. CAF is an assessment and information sharing system with makes it easier for partners to work together to co-ordinate services and aims to reduce the need for repeated assessment or more specialist intervention. The inspection recognised the contribution the CAF has made in Northamptonshire to the improvement in safeguarding of children and young people and we aim for this improvement to continue.

Additional information:

Inspections of safeguarding assess the effectiveness with which organisations and individuals work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people and the quality of the outcomes they deliver for children and young people.

The inspections also evaluate the impact of safeguarding systems and frameworks across local public services on safeguarding and protecting children

The inspections are centred around the following outcomes for looked after children and young people:

  • Being healthy
  • Staying safe
  • Enjoying and achieving
  • Making a positive contribution including user engagement
  • Achieving economic well-being