Ofsted inspectors have praised the efforts of senior leaders at a local authority to create a “positive environment” for social workers.
A focused visit of child in need and child protection services in Northamptonshire said senior leaders were working hard to change the culture of social work in the county, and managers were having “a positive impact on staff morale”.
“The introduction of positive initiatives such as ‘cakes and compliments’ and the social work awards are helping to create an atmosphere of high challenge and high support,” inspectors said.
It added that caseloads were becoming more manageable, but continued to “impact negatively on the quality of practice” in some areas.
“Consequently, some child in need work is being overlooked and requires concerted management oversight to ensure that risks are managed effectively.”
The quality of assessments was not consistently good enough, inspectors said, and too often they lacked depth.
“Child protection and child in need written plans need further improvement. Frequently, plans do not reflect what services are going to be offered to a family to assist and sustain change, and there is an overemphasis on parental action without clarity on how they will be supported. This makes it difficult for families to understand what needs to change and by when.”
It added however that social workers knew their children well and their verbal feedback “often shows more insight into what children need and the risks posed to them than written records”.
Northamptonshire council was hit with financial difficulties in February, being hit with a section 114 notice which banned any new spending.
It published plans to move children’s services to an independent trust in 2016, but that is yet to materialise, with a launch now expected in 2019.