Herefordshire children’s services commitment to improvement remains crucial, Ofsted says

A recent visit from Ofsted inspectors to Herefordshire’s children’s services outlined significant improvements but commitment to progress remains vital.

In July 2022 Ofsted deemed Herefordshire’s children’s services ‘inadequate’, but after two visits in June 2023 the organisation reported visible progression in the way the authority supports children’s needs under a protection plan.

three boys running on field

However, although Ofsted noticed some improvements, the service leaders have implemented a comprehensive plan. Some of the areas that are still facing improvement needs are high social care staff turnover rates and families with chronic needs have been experiencing inadequate practices over several years.

In addition, an essential factor impacting the progress is the premature closure of children’s cases before achieving sustained change. It was uncovered that management support is not yet effective across the board.

Although, despite these challenges, the council’s new leadership has publicly committed to prioritising children’s services and improving the understand of social care.

Family support workers have provided tangible assistance to parents, boosting their parenting skills, which has proven beneficial for vulnerable families. However, the inspectors noted that long delays in resolving housing needs have negatively impacted progress.

Following this, there has been significant concern for children experiencing repeat episodes of child protection planning due to recurring concerns when cases are stepped down or closed without further support.

Over-optimistic risk assessments have oversimplified the complexities related to domestic abuse and substance misuse. As a result, the progress achieved remains fragile for these children.

Going back to high staff turnover being an issue, Ofsted did not that current social workers have shown real dedication to their roles, making earnest efforts to understand children and their families quickly.

Pre-proceedings mechanisms have been put in place plans for children where they have been prolonged concerns. However, these mechanisms are not initiated soon enough for all children, leading to stressful and unplanned care situations.

Council leader, Jonathan Lester, said: ‘The findings show that there is still much to do but they also highlight a significant step forward.

‘The improvement of children’s services remains the top priority for the council and we are determined to work with Ofsted and our improvement partners to secure a better service.’

Image: Jordan Whitt


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