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Children's services - on the road to recovery

Herefordshire Council has accepted the Improvement Notice from the Department of Education, nearly six months after Ofsted inspectors graded child protection arrangements in the county to be inadequate.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet held last week (14 March), members learned of progress taken to date to boost safeguarding arrangements for children in Herefordshire. 

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing, Councillor Patricia Morgan, said: “Although we only received this Improvement Notice last month, we already have a well-established Improvement Board in place and have produced and are implementing an improvement plan.

“It’s not just about improving things now.  It’s about making sure that the changes we make are embedded and sustainable so that our children and young people can expect a consistently good service from us if they need our help.”

Cabinet members learned that an audit of 1400 cases undertaken since the inspection in October, indicated that none required immediate child protection intervention and that 70 per cent of cases were judged to be adequate or better.  There was also evidence of some good and outstanding practice.

This audit has helped to identify where improvements need to be made so that all future case management is judged to be good or outstanding.  An enhanced training programme is being developed to make sure that managers and staff have the knowledge, skills and experience they need to deliver top quality services.

In addition, management and support arrangements are being boosted and a nationwide recruitment campaign is under way to bring additional permanent experienced social workers and managers to the county.

“Competition between authorities for high calibre staff is very high,” continued Councillor Morgan.  “So we have offered welcome packages to new recruits – although we have some excellent agency workers as well as excellent permanent staff, stability is incredibly important when working with vulnerable families.”

One of the requirements of the Improvement Notice is a statement of expectation for safeguarding children.   The council’s cabinet considered this statement which will now be shaped with other agencies.

Jo Davidson, director for people’s services, said: “So far, our staff are making good steady progress in improving practice; recruitment and information sharing activities are beginning to improve too.

“Safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility and although the council has a large role to play, we cannot bring about the changes needed on our own.  Therefore it is really important that the organisations we work with help shape our vision and  statement of intent.”

The Improvement Board has already made progress in bringing organisations together and a joint programme of work to support the improvement programme is in place.