20 March 2013

Northamptonshire County Council has today announced a recovery programme to bring about immediate improvements to its child protection services.

The Children’s Services Improvement Programme has been drawn up in response to two recent Ofsted inspections which found that arrangements in the council and the county for the protection of children are currently inadequate.

Council chief executive Dr Paul Blantern, said: “We had concerns about our performance as an organisation, which is why we actively sought an independent assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. We also had concerns about the effectiveness of the multi-agency arrangements in the county which the inspections have confirmed.

“By inviting Ofsted and other inspection agencies in to carry out a pilot inspection using their new methodology, we were building on the improvement work which had seen the appointments of a new assistant director for safeguarding and a dedicated cabinet member for children’s social care.

“We accept the findings unreservedly.

“There are two major themes emerging from the inspection process. The first is that we and our partners need to improve the way we identify and assess children’s vulnerability so that we can reduce the risk of children and young people suffering harm or abuse.

“The second is that in we need to make sure we listen to and see things much more from the child’s perspective. Children and young people are not being appropriately involved in existing processes and as a result, their feelings and experiences are too infrequently taken into account.”

The inspection report identifies the specific areas the council and its partners need to address in order to improve the quality of help and protection given to children and young people as well as a timeframe by which the actions must be completed.

The council’s improvement programme sets out the necessary action plans to ensure all the recommendations are carried out. Although the report is published today, some immediate actions have already been taken in response to the inspectors’ initial feedback. This includes:

  • development of a full set of audit tools covering supervision, casework, child protection decisions and multi agency plans to safeguard children.
  • development of a full set of performance indicators and quality assurance tools to enable the Local Safeguarding Board (LSCBN) to assure itself that partnership working to safeguard children is robust
  • agreement of a new set of service standards for frontline practitioners
  • a review of all child protection decisions
  • the introduction of changes to signing off out-of-hours enquiries to ensure safe decisions are made
  • delivery of support to frontline social workers through the use of more senior practitioners offering one-to-one supervision on complex cases.
  • securing of additional resources from the police and health services into the county’s multi-agency safeguarding hub, the triage service for child protection referrals, to make sure all the right information is shared amongst professionals where there are concerns for children’s safety.

Dr Blantern added: “These actions represent a mere snapshot of the overall improvement programme. Our immediate goal is to raise standards across the board and across the county so that by the time Ofsted next comes to inspect us, they will be able to see that significant and far-reaching improvements have taken place. That will then give us a stable base on which to build further improvements to ensure that as an individual organisation and with our partners, we are delivering effective child protection services.”


Notes to editors
Child protection services include children’s social care, early identification, early help and preventative services.

At the request of the county council and with the agreement of its partners, a team of ten inspectors arrived in the county in January to conduct a pilot joint inspection of multi agency arrangements for the protection of children. The team was made up of inspectors from Ofsted, CQC, HMIC, HMI Probation and HMI Prisons. Northamptonshire had volunteered to take part in this pilot testing.

Inspectors found evidence that multi-agency child protection arrangements were inadequate. Because the pilot inspection was conducted using a pilot framework it was not possible to share the findings publicly. As a result, the lead Ofsted inspector returned to the county at the end of February to carry out a formal inspection of Northamptonshire County Council under the current inspection framework, the findings have been made public today. At the same time, Northamptonshire Police and the NHS were reinspected under current inspection methodology by their respective inspection bodies.