OFSTED has today (Thurs) ended the first stage of its latest inspection of the county’s “inadequate” child safeguarding service.

The focus of the inspection now shifts off site to assess evidence of progress made by the service since the “inadequate” grading for every area of child safeguarding in 2012.

That grading put Herefordshire Council’s services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers, amongst the worst in the country.

OFSTED has offered the council provisional feedback on findings so far that will go toward a final report due out in June.

The council is optimistic that the report will show a service that has moved on  and acknowledges the extent of improvements necessary to secure a “Good” grading by 2016.

OFSTED started its onsite inspection four weeks ago and a process including case file auditing and case tracking where inspectors followed up on a number of children to see what their experience of the system has been.

With the service seeing its overall caseload approach 2,000, individual case load reduction and management are essential to improvement plans, as are staff recruitment and retention and better record keeping.

OFSTED has recognised the serious impact on already strained frontline morale with added pressure from performance management.

Despite additional resources since, teams continue to report real challenges over workloads.

On average, a social worker in children’s services can be expected to deal with dozens of cases at any time.

In Herefordshire, the council says case loads have fallen from 35 per case worker to 16 since the 2012 inspection.