Ofsted inspectors have criticised “widespread and serious failures” in Worcestershire children’s services in an ‘inadequate’ judgement issued today.
Inspectors raised concerns about the council’s failure to review all cases of children subject to section 20 – voluntary care arrangements – which means they “cannot be certain that all arrangements are appropriate and necessary”. It recommended that the council does a “thorough review” of all children living in section 20 accommodation.
Thresholds throughout children’s services were applied “inconsistently”, Ofsted said, and management oversight does not lead to practice improvement.
“Caseloads of social workers, [independent reviewing officers], child protection chairs and personal advisers, although decreasing, remain too large. This is a significant contributory factor to the poor quality service that some children receive,” inspectors said.
Focus and drive
Ofsted said recently appointed leaders in the service were “starting to provide the much-needed focus and drive, and partner agencies and staff express confidence in the ambitious leadership team”.
But, it added, Worcestershire’s social workers were not seeing children alone and children’s views were not fully “considered, taken into account or acted on”.
“Too few children are supported to participate fully in their child protection conferences,” it said.
Worcestershire was also finding it a challenge to recruit good quality, permanent social workers and managers.
“The local authority does not have a recruitment and retention strategy, and has not been able to ensure that the workforce is suitably experienced to deliver a good-quality service for children,” said Ofsted’s inspection report.
Inspectors recommended that the council improve all its services, and implement a workforce strategy “as swiftly as possible”.