Cornwall children's services finally classed as 'adequate'
3:00pm Friday 15th March 2013 in News
The findings of an unannounced inspection by Ofsted into the way Cornwall Council keeps vulnerable children and young people in Cornwall safe from harm has been called "adequate"
The report says improvements have been made in the quality and effectiveness of the authority’s social work and early help services over the past two years.
The council had been judged as "inadequate" following an inspection in 2009, with children being put "at risk" in the county due to the department's failings.
Inspectors said that children and young people in care are not being properly safeguarded, with the department's then leadership singled out for criticism.
A range of failures were identified, including care planning, risk assessment, reviews, recording, planning and visits by social workers. It also says there is a significant lack of initial emergency placements.
A team of seven Ofsted Inspectors, including both the national lead for social work practice and the Inspector who inspected the authority where Peter Connelly (Baby P) died, spent two weeks in Cornwall during February this year inspecting the quality and effectiveness of the arrangements to protect children and young people in Cornwall.
The report from Ofsted Inspectors said: “The overall effectiveness of local authority arrangements to protect children in Cornwall is adequate. Significant progress has been made by the local authority and its partners in tackling the deep rooted problems which led to safeguarding arrangements being judged inadequate by Ofsted in the safeguarding and looked after children’s inspections in 2009 and 2011.
“Some services have been re-structured and new services developed, alongside new processes and systems, and this has made a significant contribution to ensuring that child protection concerns are responded to promptly and that children in Cornwall get help and protection when they need it”.
During the inspection, which was arranged with just one hour’s notice for the Council and conducted using the new more rigorous Ofsted methodology, the team examined a significant number of cases and interviewed frontline managers and practitioners. They also spoke to children and young people, their parents and carers, observed practice and sought feedback from other professionals.
The report’s findings have been welcomed by Cornwall’s director of children’s services Trevor Doughty and lead member, councillor Neil Burden.
“We know that Cornwall has had long-standing and deep-seated difficulties in meeting the inspection standards going back to 2006” said Neil Burden.
“Naturally there was a nervousness over how we would fair with such a thorough unannounced inspection with much higher standards expected across the board. This has been very much a team effort across the whole directorate and partners like our schools, children centres and youth clubs who have played a huge rule along side the social workers assessments teams and referral unit. Everyone has been working extremely hard to address these issues and achieve our goal of becoming one of the best children’s services in the country”.
“In their verbal feedback at the end of the inspection the team described the progress which had been made as a “huge step forward” for the Council and I am delighted that the final report has confirmed these findings. We now look forward to meeting with the Minister and Department of Education officials over the next few weeks to discuss the ending of the improvement order.”
“This inspection, which was firmly focused on frontline practice, was the toughest we have ever experienced” added Children’s Services Director Trevor Doughty.
“The inspectors acknowledged the significant progress which has been made and confirmed that they found no children at immediate risk of harm”.
“However, whilst this inspection outcome is a very important step on our improvement journey, we are ambitious to make further improvements. There is still more to do to get our services to “good” and then to “outstanding” which is what the children and young people in Cornwall deserve”.
The report highlighted Mr Doughty's ambitious, resolute, energetic and very visible leadership and said Mr Burden was "confident, committed and takes his responsibilities seriously".
The report also identifies a number of areas for further improvement, including ensuring that every child in need has an up to date child protection plan and are seen within expected timescales; and that progress on plans is systematically monitored.
Related links: Children abused after being placed in care