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Ofsted’s damning report into child protection service
A LEDBURY councillor believes Herefordshire Council will make the necessary improvements and come out “ahead of the game” following a damning Ofsted report into its child protection practice.
An inspection of child protection carried out by Ofsted in the county last month found all areas of practice to be inadequate, meaning the service does not meet even its minimum requirements.
The report specifically cites “systematic failures”
in areas such as management oversight, decisionmaking and performance management.
It also outlined an immediate need to audit all cases closed within the last three months and risk assess all current cases.
Ofsted acknowledges improvements are being made and Herefordshire Council will now work to an initial six-month improvement plan to bring child safeguarding procedures up to scratch.
Councillor Peter Watts, who represents Ledbury on Herefordshire Council, believes this will bring things up to standard.
“There are certainly improvements and some investments that can be made and I am confident that the council will do this, come out ahead of the game and then stay ahead of it,”
he said, adding that child protection was an issue of the highest importance but also urged caution over the Ofsted findings, saying “it is always easy to come in and find fault with someone else”.
Coun Watts also warned the council could be facing an “uphill battle financially”
to overhaul the service.
Government cuts have cost children’s services in the county about £3 million over the past year alone as the number of children coming into the council’s care continues to rise.
Last year, the safeguarding service overspent by nearly £1.4 million, directly related to the increasing number of children coming into care and offset only by £435,000 of additional funding.
David McCallum, independent chair of the Herefordshire Safeguarding Forum, said the findings were a surprise but the board had to take responsibility for not “having a grip” on what was going on day-to-day.
However a senior social worker – whose identity is being protected – told our sister paper the Hereford Times that the verdict was “no major surprise” among those on the frontline.
They cited concerns over staff turnover and a high volume of agency workers and said staff felt undermined by both management and available resources amid a culture of criticism.