Children’s services improving – but still a long way to go

Children's services in the county are steadily improving but are still some way off being adequate, the county council has said

Children's services in the county are steadily improving but are still some way off being adequate, the county council has said

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Children’s services in the county are steadily improving but are still some way off being adequate, the county council has said.

Deputy leader of Northamptonshire County Council Heather Smith said the authority still had too many social workers from employment agencies and that there were too many referrals to social services from partner organisations, such as the police and schools.

Heather Smith - in charge of children's social services

Heather Smith - in charge of children's social services

Her comments came just over a year after Ofsted branded arrangements for the protection of children in Northamptonshire as ‘inadequate’ following an inspection in early 2013.

The county council says it has implemented changes and is launching an academy to provide a year-long training and support programme for newly-qualified social workers.

Mrs Smith said: “There is a long way to go but I am pleased to say we have received positive feedback.”

She said a continuing problem was that social services were getting too many referrals which did not meet the criteria for the involvement of social services.

Referrals into the social care system have increased by 39 per cent in the past 12 months.

Director of children, families and education at the authority Alex Hopkins said this could be because of nervousness from partner agencies following the inspection last year.

He added: “There have been referrals of cases which don’t need social service involvement.

“We have to build confidence in partners so that their first response does not have to be social services.

“They need to ask, ‘what support can we give?’.”

The council says about 40 per cent of social workers, 
of whom there are about 360 in the county, were agency staff.

Mr Hopkins said: “There are advantages to having permanent staff in position.

“The first is commitment, the second is that agency staff may move with a small notice period and also the cost of hiring agency staff is approximately two times as much as having permanent workers.”

Rating

Heather Smith said she did not believe Northamptonshire County Council’s protection arrangements would attract a ‘good’ rating in the next year.

She added: “That would be unbelievable.

“I think it is more likely that we will be at the level above inadequate, which is ‘requires improvement’.”