Ofsted to inspect Wakefield's children's services again next month

Ofsted will return to inspect Wakefield's children's services next month.

The education regulator will now revisit the city on February 5, following the Government's decision to allow Wakefield Council to keep hold of the service before Christmas.

It will be Ofsted's first official visit since it rated children's services "Inadequate" last summer.

But the council subsequently put enough improvements in place to convince a Government-appointed commissioner that it was now capable of running the department and delivering long-term progress.

In a verbal update to the local authority's Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee today (Wednesday), service director Beate Wagner said there was "much more to do" but that staff were now being given better support.

"The plan we have in place is the right one but only if a steely focus is retained," she told the meeting.

"Caseloads for social workers are continuing to come down. Bar a small number of people, the number of cases per individual is now fewer than 30.

"That's still not great but it's certainly better than where we were."

Ms Wagner said that the council had appointed a member of staff to liaise with workers who were absent on long-term sick leave from the department, which she said had been a positive development.

At one point before Ofsted's visit last year, more than one quarter of social work staff were absent indefinitely.

Ms Wagner said: "It's fair to say those people weren't always having good contact with their managers [while they were off], and we want to make sure that happens.

"We've asked those on long-term sick if they want to receive regular updates. It's about making sure they know we care about them and we value them.

"A number of people have resigned because they didn't want to come back. From their point of view, it's probably better to make a decision than not make a decision.

"But what we've done has also led to some people wanting to come back because they've seen the changes we've made, and and they've found coming back to be a positive experience."

Local Democracy Reporting Service