Herefordshire Council’s services for children in need of help and protection are no longer rated as inadequate, according to the findings of the latest Ofsted inspection published today.
Ofsted, the national body that inspects and regulates services which care for children and young people, conducted an inspection last month to check whether Herefordshire Council’s services do protect and support children and young people and their families and improve the quality of their lives and futures.
The inspection, the first since the council was rated as inadequate in 2012 and the first using the new, more challenging, framework for Ofsted inspections, found no widespread or serious failings and no instances of children being harmed or at risk of harm.
Ofsted particularly highlighted the improvements that have been made to the quality of social work in the county through a significant reduction in case loads and positive staff morale and commitment. Children in need of protection are being identified and assessed quickly, and children who are in care are living in stable and supported environments.
Herefordshire’s adoption service was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted who also commented positively on the low time taken to adopt in the county which is already only a month less than the national target for 2016. Senior managers and councillors were recognised as being committed to improvements and investing in keeping children and young people safe.
Both the Council and Ofsted recognise that there is still a long way to go to meet the goal of being rated as ‘good’ by 2016. Ofsted commented that improvements were slow and erratic during 2013 but that the pace of improvement has quickened since January 2014. Many changes are too recent to have started making a difference to outcomes for children and young people, children are still seeing too many changes of social worker and data and information management is not accurate enough yet. Ofsted were positive about the plans to address these issues.
Councillor Jeremy Millar, cabinet member for children’s wellbeing said:
“We are very pleased that following our recent inspection we are no longer rated as inadequate and reassured that Ofsted are stating that no children being cared for in Herefordshire are at risk of harm. Our highest priority at Herefordshire Council is to protect children and give them the best start in life and so we are continuing to invest in this area during what are very challenging times financially for the Council and other partners. There is no doubt that we still have a long way to go to meet our goal of being rated as a ‘good’ service by 2016, however I am confident that we are absolutely on course to achieve this.”
Jo Davidson, director of children’s wellbeing services, said:
“The improvements we have seen, particularly since January 2014, have come about through a huge team effort by staff, managers, councillors, partners, foster carers and the children and young people themselves. Everyone wants to be graded as ‘good’ in 2016, and this is a strong staging post on that journey.”