Northamptonshire County Council is making satisfactory progress to improve child protection services, according to Ofsted inspectors.
The progress inspection took place in December and found that the council is taking appropriate steps to improve the service after it was rated inadequate by Ofsted following an inspection in February 2013.
The inspection team recognised the council’s efforts to improve the way referrals are managed, enhance the emergency duty team arrangements and better identify children who are at risk or are suffering significant harm.
Social worker caseloads have also been reduced, with 71% of staff now managing no more than 20 cases compared with 65% a year ago, while the council was praised for its efforts to build a ‘stable and able’ workforce by recruiting high quality newly-qualified social workers through its social work academy.
The progress inspection report says: “Taking account of the starting point of the council’s improvement journey, notable improvements include setting up and implementing the effective multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH), completing timely assessments of children in need and better child protection work.
“The council’s self-assessment, which describes improvement from a low base, provides a clear and accurate indication of the progress to date and the distance yet to travel to achieve the required quality and consistency of service.”
More work to do
The inspectors found there are some areas for improvement, including:
- Ensuring all children in need have plans which are regularly reviewed
- Raising awareness of child sexual exploitation among staff and partner agencies
- Analysing patterns and trends relating to children missing from home, care or school
Cllr Heather Smith, county council deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We have worked very hard to begin addressing the issues identified in our previous Ofsted inspection and I’m glad to see that the inspection team has recognised our commitment to improve child protection services.
“Now we need to move forward and focus on continuing to improve the help, support and intervention we provide to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in Northamptonshire.”