Progress at Wakefield's children's services 'too slow', Ofsted says

Progress in Wakefield's inadequate children's services is too slow and chances are still being missed to protect vulnerable children, Ofsted has said.

By David Spereall
Friday, 14th June 2019, 2:48 pm
Wakefield's children's services was first placed in special measures last year.
Wakefield's children's services was first placed in special measures last year.

The watchdog has released its latest findings after a two-day inspection last month.

Although Ofsted said that several improvements have been made within the service since it was first placed in special measures in July last year, it added that "weaknesses" in identifying risk to vulnerable children remained.

In a letter published on its website on Friday, the regulator said "not all frontline managers consistently challenge poor practice" and inspectors saw "missed opportunities" in addressing children's needs.

Wakefield Council said Ofsted's latest findings match their own.

The report said: "The local authority recognises that weaknesses in identifying risk remain, that too many assessments are poor and that child protection investigations are not consistently thorough.

"While some children are receiving better assessments of risk, for too many children this is not the case.

"Some investigations fail to fully explore risk because some social workers focus on presenting issues and too often lack professional curiosity in understanding children's broader needs and risks."

However, Wakefield Council was praised for securing more manageable workloads for social workers and recruiting extra staff.

According to the report, caseloads have been halved from around 40 per social worker last year.

Ofsted also said that the council's response to allegations against professionals who work with children has "significantly improved".

Workers were credited with "finding creative ways to engage" with children who go missing from home and that the local authority had stepped up internal scrutiny of the service.

Wakefield Council declined to give any interviews about the report.

But in a statement, its corporate director for children and young people, Beate Wagner, said: "We are acutely aware of the significant challenges we face and welcome Ofsted’s feedback, which supports our own findings.

"The inspectors make it clear that we absolutely know what needs to be done and they agree that it will take time to fully implement the changes given the scale of improvement needed.

"We, like Ofsted, want to see an increasing difference made as a result of the actions we have taken. However, we also know that change is not sustainable without the firm foundations we have been building.

"We must, and are already making, our response to risk more robust, and steadily improving consistency.

"We know this is still not good enough and it is a clear priority for us.

"Ofsted identified areas where positive changes had been made, but where these were new and have not had chance to be fully embedded.

"This is encouraging and we should increasingly be able see the positive difference these new arrangements are making to our children and their families."

Ofsted will continue to monitor the service in the coming months, while the council says it will carry on its work with a government appointed commissioner sent to observe the state of the department last year.

Local Democracy Reporting Service