“Serious and widespread failures” have been identified at Wakefield children’s services by Ofsted.
Judging Wakefield as ‘inadequate’, Ofsted said inspectors found cases of children throughout the services for whom risk had not been identified and where appropriate action had not been taken to help and protect them.
There are serious delays in achieving permanence for children in care and in ensuring that their needs are met.
“Since the last Ofsted inspection in 2016, senior leaders across the council and partnership have not effected the improvements necessary to remove serious weaknesses or counter a decline in service quality. In 2016, services were judged to require improvement to be good. Many of the identified improvements have not been delivered and previously good services have deteriorated,” said the report.
The report pointed out that a director of children’s services has recently been appointed and she has started to recruit a new management team. The council has committed to additional resourcing and an improvement plan, developed with partner agencies and other regional local authorities, is being implemented.
However, the plan is not based on a systematic evaluation of the current service weaknesses, or on a full understanding of the experiences of children, Ofsted warned.
The report highlighted:
In relation to child protection services, Ofsted said services for children in need of help and protection in Wakefield are inadequate because there are widespread and serious failures that leave children at risk of harm or living in harmful situations for too long. Thresholds are not well understood and a significant weakness across Wakefield’s social work practice is the failure to recognise and respond to risk. Deficits in the quality of basic social work practice across the service, including for disabled children, are significant and recording across children’s services is poor.
The experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers is inadequate and have deteriorated since the last Ofsted inspection in July 2016. Decisions to take children into care are too slow, resulting in some children living in risky situations for too long. In the main, social workers’ assessments of children in care and care leavers are poor. Social workers do not always provide reports for reviews for children in care which hinders effective multi-agency planning. Too many children experience placement instability.
The impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families is inadequate. Senior leaders across the council and partnership have not tackled the serious and widespread failures across children’s services, and this has left children at risk of significant harm. The inspection of Wakefield Children’s Services in July 2016 identified a number of areas for improvement, the majority of which have not been delivered. Furthermore, services previously judged as good have deteriorated. There are too few social workers to provide a safe service to meet the needs of children and families. Newly qualified staff are carrying cases well beyond their capability levels without support. There are significant capacity issues across children’s services and supervision is irregular.
However, inspectors did see some impressive social work support. Some children and families are receiving a high-quality service which is safeguarding and improving their lives. Children are supported effectively to take part in their reviews and have advocates to represent them. Managers of the virtual school know what is working well and what needs to improve, and they are taking steps to affect necessary changes.
The report makes a number of recommendations as to what needs to improve including:
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