More than 150 children still not allocated a social worker by Northamptonshire social services

The number of children in Northamptonshire in need of a social worker but do not have one has dropped in recent months, but still remains high.
The number of children in Northamptonshire in need of a social worker but do not have one has dropped in recent months, but still remains high.

Northamptonshire County Council still has more than 150 children without an allocated social worker.

The figures have been revealed in a report which will be looked at by the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee next week, after councillors asked for more detail about what is happening in the children’s services department following a damning Ofsted report six months ago.

Ofsted inspectors found that there were 267 unallocated cases where children did not have a social worker and that ‘social workers were drowning in work’.

After the findings the Government sent experienced children’s commissioner Malcolm Newsam to the department to ‘oversee improvements’.
The report looks at the number of children in need without an allocated social worker, how the service’s front office is now working and also at the long-standing issue of social worker recruitment and retention.

It says that there are still 152 children in need without a dedicated social worker and that the average amount of time for a child waiting to be allocated is two weeks. The longest wait was 75 days.

It reads: “The negative consequence of families not being allocated to a named social worker is that visits are undertaken by different workers on each occasion, the work is limited to a monitoring function and plans of support and intervention agreed with families during the assessment phase cannot be actioned.”

The report said there has been a full review of the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub, which is the first point of contact for many who report concerns about a child. It had been criticised by Ofsted for not being ‘effective in ensuring that risk and need is addressed’.

But according to this latest report there are still a significant number of social workers with higher than target caseloads.

It says: “Simply put, within the safeguarding team we need 10 social workers to allocate all cases. It is our number one priority as agreed with our children’s commissioner; at present 23 per cent of the safeguarding service is agency staff, while this is a real improvement from Northamptonshire’s historical position this is still a challenge to us.”

Speaking at the health and wellbeing board last Thursday (April 11) the council’s deputy director of children’s services Sharon Muldoon said the department was ‘making good progress but there is much more to do.’

Chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee Labour Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said there is still ‘ a genuine real problem’ within the department.

He said: “These figures are still too high which is why scrutiny wants to look at this issue. We hope to understand the problem that still exists and offer any recommendations that could help the council.”

The scrutiny meeting will take place on April 24 at One Angel Square, Northampton.