Peterborough children’s social care makes progress but still needs improvement

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn
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Peterborough City Council’s Children’s Social Care department still requires improvement according to Ofsted inspectors - despite progress being made.

Ofsted arrived unannounced on 13 April 2015 for a four week inspection of the department, it has been announced today (Friday 18 September) that the city council’s Children’s Social Care department has been rated as requiring improvement.

Inspectors concluded that ‘there was no widespread or serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm’ and that the new leadership team, appointed in March 2015, had accelerated improvement in the department.

Adoption services were rated as good overall and inspectors commented that the council ‘demonstrates success in finding adoptive placements for older children, children with complex needs and groups of brother and sisters’.

The ‘requires improvement’ rating is the same rating as the council department received in the last inspection in 2013 - although the rating, the third highest grade - was then labelled as ‘adequate.

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, corporate director: people and communities, said: “The inspectors found that we have continued to improve the department and although our overall grade remains the same we are now closer to being rated good. We understand the very high standards required to be classed as ‘good’ - with fewer than a quarter of UK authorities being rated above ‘requiring improving’.

“Nevertheless, our speed of improvement is still being held back because of a national shortage of skilled and experienced permanent social workers.

“We agree with the inspectors that some children experience too many changes of social worker and this can lead to some inconsistent practice. However, it is encouraging that since the inspection took place in April, we have taken major steps to address this and have already gained approval for a new recruitment strategy from cabinet.

“In the short-term we need to continue to improve our recruitment and retention of staff. In the long–term we are aiming to reduce our reliance on qualified social workers by, for example, employing specialist support staff to work with children with lower priority needs.

“We will always continue to use experienced social workers in complex situations and for children on protection plans but I believe that our new strategy will better address the variety of needs and challenges faced by children, young people and families in our city.”

Councillor Andy Coles, cabinet member for children’s services at the city council, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the hard work of our social care staff. Peterborough has many challenges and it’s testament to their dedication that inspectors found that no children were found to be inadequately protected or at risk of significant harm.

“I would also like to praise the impact of the senior leadership team who since the inspection was carried out have taken action to increase the number of permanent social workers, and other specialist staff, at the city council. We are determined to keep improving as protecting vulnerable children and families will always be our highest priority.”

Inspectors also said the following:

• Children who are identified as being at risk of child sexual exploitation are appropriately safeguarded. A major joint operation with the police has recently resulted in perpetrators being convicted

• The success of Operation Erle (an investigation into child grooming in the city) means that there is a high level of awareness across all agencies of child sexual exploitation

• Almost all (97 per cent) of the 99 children and young people who responded to the council’s looked after children survey in December 2014 said they were happy with their social workers

• In most cases, child protection plans are effective in reducing risks for children. As a result, the proportion of children with a second or subsequent child protection plan is, at 12.5 per cent, lower than the average for comparators. In cases seen by inspectors, decisions to end child protection plans were appropriate

• The number of looked after children who have been cautioned for, or convicted of, an offence has fallen. In 2010–11, 7 per cent of looked after children had been cautioned or convicted. The figure for 2014–15 is 1 per cent

• The local authority has been very successful in recruiting in-house foster carers while at the same time maintaining high standards of foster care

• Children who are found to be in need of protection receive a prompt service, with child protection cases processed within four hours of initial contact

• Arrangements for protecting children outside office hours work well

• There was a good response to young people who went missing from home, with return interviews offered and completed, and subsequent work with the whole family to try to prevent recurrence