Damning report reveals Northamptonshire’s child social services are still ‘inadequate’

County Hall.
County Hall.

A new report, published this morning, has revealed children’s social services in Northamptonshire remain “inadequate” in all areas.

The damning report, which has been published after a fresh inspection by Ofsted, has again criticised the quality of support and help that children in council care across Northamptonshire are offered.

It follows the publication of a devastating “pilot inspection”, released earlier this year, which lifted the lid on the appalling state of safeguarding services across the entire county.

The latest report has today hit out at the overall pace of improvements since the original inspection and revealed vulnerable children in care are still being routinely failed.

County Hall chiefs pointed towards evidence contained in the report of “green shoots” of improvements.

However, the report revealed that “many looked after children continue to receive an inadequate service from social care as well as support from partner agencies”.

Inspectors hit out at a “serious failing” of children who are not seen regularly by their social workers, while one in three children in care “do not have a care plan”.

It found “some improvements, in some areas” are beginning to be achieved, although “change is slow and progress is not assured”.

The report added: “These difficulties are compounded by a lack of informed, focussed managerial oversight, guidance and direction.”

It found such a lack of focus “has been exacerbated by the extensive changes at all managerial levels in recent months”.

Councillor Catherine Boardman, cabinet member for children and education, said the council was currently 16 weeks into a two-year process to turn around the service.

She said the findings were “entirely expected” and said she believed inspectors had seen evidence the county council was “moving in the right direction”.

Councillor Boardman added: “This inspection has served as an opportunity to take stock of where we are on the important journey.

“It’s clear that inspectors saw there are important foundations for improvement in place, and the newly-established senior management team has delivered determined and decisive actions, although these have not yet had enough time to have an impact.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the task we are undertaking, in turning round a legacy of poor management, practice and partner agency engagement.

“Inspectors found that our priorities are clear, we have a good level of self awareness, and the improvement agenda is strengthened by strong political support.”

Jill Hope, Lib Dem spokesman for children and education, called for an extra £10 million to be set aside in next year’s budget to ensure departments are properly supported in turning around the failing service.

She said: “Money is not the answer to all of the problems we are seeing. The report highlighted failures across the board – from management and political leadership, to failures to check children’s health when they were referred to the service.

“But, to turn around a department that has been allowed to get into such a devastating mess officers need to be sure they have the full support – financially and otherwise – of the Council.”

She also called for the Corporate Parenting Board to be given “more teeth”, adding: “We have to put party politics aside and ensure that the council brings to bear every bit of expertise and experience it can to ensure that Northamptonshire’s children are looked after properly when in the council’s care.”