Ofsted may reinspect Wakefield's children's services before the end of 2021
Ofsted may soon reinspect Wakefield's children's services for the first time since rating them inadequate in 2018.
The watchdog could conduct a full inspection of the service before the end of the year, councillors were told on Thursday.
Ofsted has recognised that significant improvements have been made to the department since it was heavily criticised for failing vulnerable children three years ago.
But Wakefield's children's services remain classed as inadequate until a new full inspection takes place, which is why the next one is so significant.
The council's head of children's services, Beate Wagner, said it was impossible to know exactly when Ofsted would return.
But, speaking at a children and young people scrutiny meeting on Thursday, she added: "We'd normally get one week's notice.
"Since the pandemic started Ofsted have extended that to two weeks.
"So we don’t know when it will be exactly. But we think that it will certainly be within the next 12 months, and probably within this calendar year."
Ofsted said in 2018 that there were "serious failures" within children's services which were leaving children in the care of the local authority at risk of harm.
The service was overly reliant on agency staff and social workers had caseloads which were too big, the watchdog said.
Reports by Ofsted since however, which have been compiled from smaller, focused inspections, have recognised several improvements have been made to the service.
Ms Wagner was drafted in by the council shortly after Ofsted's 2018 report and has been credited by councillors for helping to turn the department around.
She told the meeting that the service was now far less reliant on agency staff.
She said: "We were a little bit worried that recruitment would have slowed during the pandemic, but it actually sped up, if anything.
"I wouldn't put that down to the pandemic itself. I think people are more confident in us and our reputation as a good place to work is growing.
"We started with about 100 agency staff (in 2018). We're now down to roughly 40.
"We're now in a position where we're starting to look not dissimilar to other authorities in that sense.
"We still want some agency staff to be around to cover for sickness and to ensure caseloads are not too high."
Local Democracy Reporting Service