Ofsted has identified issues for urgent improvement in three councils in five reports of unannounced safeguarding inspections published this week.
Along with Surrey, whose positive report this week marks a significant turnaround in its safeguarding performance, Northamptonshire was the other authority where no priority action was highlighted by Ofsted.
In Sheffield, Ofsted praised management support, supervision, training opportunities and the safeguarding of children in cases involving domestic violence.
However, Ofsted highlighted two cases which had not been promptly investigated or assessed, and made this an area for priority action, which means it will be specifically addressed in any future inspection.
Hampshire was praised for its “well resourced, robust and effective” emergency duty service and the restructure of its referral and assessment service to reduce caseloads.
However, social workers in the children in need team in one office had “unacceptably high caseloads, resulting in serious delays in recording and poor quality assessments”. Ofsted made this an area for priority action.
Ofsted listed one area for priority action in Bradford; the arrangements for receiving and responding to initial contacts involving anonymous referrals, where the child’s name and address are not know by the referrer, “do not ensure all child protection concerns are assessed by a qualified social worker”, the report said.
But staff said they were well supported by managers, practice ensured the views of parents and children were being “actively encouraged”, and services were “appropriately sensitive to ethnic, cultural and linguistic needs”.
Northamptonshire was praised for its initial assessments, which were “consistently of satisfactory quality or better and completed in a timely manner”.
In addition, child protection enquiries were “thorough with a sustained focus on the needs of the child across the range of Every Child Matters outcomes”.
Ofsted listed several areas for development, though, saying the distribution of social work resources was “inconsistent between referral teams”. Core assessments and reports to child protection conferences “lack the necessary rigour and consistency in analysis of strengths and areas for change”, the report added.