Crunch Ofsted report on Northants children’s services expected within a month

Councillor Heather Smith says she is confident Northamptonshire County Council's children's services will have an improved rating in the upcoming Ofsted report.
Councillor Heather Smith says she is confident Northamptonshire County Council's children's services will have an improved rating in the upcoming Ofsted report.
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A crucial watchdog report which will decide on whether to lift Northamptonshire’s children’s services out of special measures is due within a month.

Back in 2013, Northamptonshire County Council was rocked when the department which looks after vulnerable young people was given an “inadequate” rating.

The watchdog said social workers needed to get “much better at listening to children and young people and understanding what they need”.

A damning report also said that those working with children would have to get much better at sharing information about risks to children.

The council immediately launched a recovery strategy in 2013, with the hope of climbing out of special measures by the next inspection.

The results of that are due within the next month, it is understood.

If the council fails to achieve a rating of “requires improvement to be good”, it could have serious ramifications for the authority - as the Government would then step in to run the department.

It could put pay to the council’s plans to move all children’s services over to a mutual trust, which it claims would save £9 million a year.

However county council deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Oundle), is confident the council will get an improved rating.

She said: “We know we have made significant progress to improve children’s services in Northamptonshire since our last Ofsted inspection in 2013.

“Our fantastic staff have worked incredibly hard over the past three years as we have sought to transform the service and I’d like to pay tribute to their commitment to being part of our improvement journey.

“During the five-week inspection, many staff were working until midnight to support the Ofsted team and demonstrate the progress we’ve made.

“We are feeling positive about the imminent inspection report, and we hope that Ofsted will recognise the improvements we have made. Whatever the outcome, we know there is still work to do and we are committed to continuing our work to improve services for children and families across Northamptonshire.”

In January 2015, Ofsted revealed Northamptonshire was making progress to improve its children’s services and was praised for its efforts to build a “stable and able” workforce.