Leicestershire Council has pledged to plough £2.5 million into service improvement in children’s services after Ofsted rated the council as ‘requires improvement’ earlier this year.
Ofsted published an inspection report into children’s services in February and concluded that “children’s services in Leicestershire require improvement to be good”.
This week, the council has announced an extra £2.5m to be invested in children’s services to reduce caseloads, improve services and manage a rise in the number of children in care.
Councillor Ivan Ould, cabinet member for children and families said: “Supporting young people is our number one priority.
“Ofsted’s report underlines that we’re effectively protecting those at most risk. But, we’re committed to recruiting social workers to reduce caseloads and drive quality across our work.
“Across the country, demand for support is intensifying pressure on vital services. This issue illustrates the tremendous challenge facing councils, including essential services supporting vulnerable people,” he added.
The inspection report found children who are at risk of significant harm are identified and protected. However, children potentially in need are not seen in a timely manner and experience delay in receiving the help that they need. Thresholds are not yet applied consistently and, in a small number of cases, inappropriate management decision-making after a section 47 enquiry meant that initial child protection conferences (ICPC) were not convened.
The report highlighted:
- There is insufficient focus on social workers, and there is a lack of developmental programmes for practitioners and first-line managers.
- Some social workers are not experiencing regular supervision meetings and, when supervision does take place, it is often not sufficiently directive or reflective.
- Caseloads in some areas are high.
- Care plans are not specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART).
The inspectors noted that some of the issues had been recognised by the interim director of children’s services and the interim assistant director for social care who have provided a catalyst for recent improvement work. However, some developments are too new to have had a positive impact.
Ofsted recommended that the council ensures that when a child is allocated to a social worker this is reflected in the social worker’s caseload and that caseload size and management capacity across the service facilitate good-quality social work.
The council should review processes operating in the First Response Service to ensure the accurate recording of contacts, referrals, assessments and their timeliness, the inspectorate added.
This week, Leicestershire Council pledged that the £2.5m funding would create 37 new social care posts and enable Leicestershire County Council to deliver Ofsted’s 17 recommendations. The 37 posts include 16 social workers, a children’s rights officer, who champions young people’s views and two solicitors to manage care proceedings in court.
The council has seen an eight per cent increase in looked after children over 12 months, and a 36 per cent rise since 2012.
The council supports 533 children in care and 521 children with children protection plans
The proposal will be discussed by the council’s children and families scrutiny committee on Monday (11 Sep) and the cabinet next Friday (15 Sep).