GOVERNMENT inspectors say Herefordshire Council has made little progress in improving the county's children’s services.

Ofsted told the council it needed to improve the services after its inspection in June 2018.

At the time, inspectors said the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families was inadequate and the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection needed improvement.

Now, the latest inspection says the local authority has made little progress in improving the quality of practice for children in need and those subject to a child protection plan since the last inspection.

Inspector Peter McEntee said in the report: “Areas of concern identified at the last full inspection in relation to children in need and child protection services have not been resolved.

“Despite ongoing investment by senior leaders, children in need and child protection social work services remain challenged by vacancies as well as turnover of staff and ongoing difficulties in attracting experienced staff.

“Supervision of staff is inconsistent in quality and, when considering casework, does not provide good enough guidance or an overview of progress.

“While no child was seen to be left at significant risk and without intervention, child protection plans are not sufficiently focused on the links between parents’ actions and the impact on the child, making it more difficult for parents to understand their responsibilities.

“There are gaps in the recording of both core groups and children in need meetings, resulting in slower progress in meeting children’s and family’s needs.

“There is better work in the children with disabilities team; plans for children are more focused on their needs and there is more consistent guidance and reflection from supervising managers.”

The inspection says they need to improve the frequency and quality of superivison offered to social workers and prioritise family support work for those most in need.

Another aspect which needs work is how child protection plans are written in order to ensure that children are clearly identified as the focus of actions to reduce risk.

The council most also provide more support for newly qualified social work staff, including a review of case holding expectations and responsibilities and act in a timely manner to address deficits identified in case audit activity.

A spokeswoman said keeping children safe is the council's highest priority and they have recently invested £1.6m into children’s services to promote staff recruitment.

Cabinet member Felicity Norman said: “We acknowledge that we still need to improve our quality of practice and this is taking time.

"We know that the recruitment of social care staff continues to be a challenge across the UK and particularly in rural Herefordshire. 

"This does affect our ability to improve consistency and quality of practice. 

"Nonetheless we will continue to work towards continued improvement in line with our aim to achieve a higher Ofsted rating.”

Children’s wellbeing director Chris Baird said: “We welcome the feedback from Ofsted’s recent inspection and we are taking time to reflect on the findings and implement the necessary changes. 

“It is pleasing to know that no child was seen to be left at significant risk and without intervention during the inspection. 

"We know that there are areas where we still need to improve and are committed to do so with our staff. 

"The council continues to support this important work for children and young people in Herefordshire and has provided significant investment which has gone towards increasing the number of social workers, family support and early help workers and there are plans to provide further financial support to ensure continued improvement in a challenging yet vital service area. 

“We are fortunate in Herefordshire to have passionate and committed staff, managers, members, partners, foster carers and the children and young people themselves and that’s a great strength for us to build on. 

"We remain fully committed to moving from an Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement’ to a rating of ‘good’.”