Doncaster Council has drawn up a three-year plan to transform its children’s services from “inadequate” to “outstanding”.
The publication of a draft improvement plan comes with the council under the scrutiny of an improvement board, which is reporting to ministers on its progress since a damning Ofsted assessment last year found safeguarding and overall performance were inadequate.
This was followed by a highly critical Department for Children, Schools and Families review, which found that safeguarding practice remained inadequate.
Both reviews identified problems in allocating child protection cases to social workers, so the plan includes a target to reduce unallocated cases to zero. This will be monitored monthly by the lead member for children’s services and the council’s scrutiny committee.
The council also plans to reduce children’s services vacancy rates to 7%. This comes after a Community Care survey of local authorities found 19% of children’s social work posts were vacant at Doncaster, as of 31 January this year.
Staff should also benefit from better caseload monitoring and supervision, a new mentoring scheme for newly qualified staff, and a range of training courses tailored to their needs.
Other targets include delivering “outstanding” safeguarding practice – judged by external assessments – and achieving good or excellent gradings from Ofsted for all serious case reviews.
The plan, due to be finalised next month, has been drawn up by interim children’s services director Gareth Williams.
The plan admits standards are still “very poor” with evidence of “dangerous practice” in duty and assessment teams.
Failings “cannot be ameliorated within six months”, it says, adding that a series of urgent reviews are being conducted over the next three months into the local safeguarding children board, practice standards across all social care teams, and “the processes leading to the decision to look after a child”.
Progress on implementation will be monitored by the external improvement board.
Meanwhile, Doncaster’s new executive mayor, Peter Davies, who was elected last week, has vowed to make improving child protection a top priority (more details at www.communitycare.co.uk/111759).
● December 2008: Ofsted found one in four child protection cases were not allocated to a social worker and the number of assessments completed within timescale was significantly worse than in similar councils.
● April 2008: DCSF ‘diagnostic review’ found it was still unclear whether child protection cases were allocated and the local safeguarding children board was not working effectively.