An Ofsted inspection report has concluded that children’s services in Northumberland require improvement to be good.
However, inspectors did praise the council’s adoption service and the independent Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), which were both rated as good.
The inspection took place in January and February this year, but the report was only published last Thursday.
Within the overall rating, the judges also rate the service in three areas – children who need help and protection; children looked after and achieving permanence; leadership, management and governance – all of which require improvement.
Children looked after and achieving permanence is further split into adoption performance (good) and experiences and progress of care leavers (requires improvement).
Inspectors praised the adoption service, describing its family placement service as ‘stable, experienced and well led’, with children being well prepared for adoption.
Coun Robert Arckless, cabinet member for children’s services, said they welcome the findings which identify a number of areas of good practice due ‘to the hard work staff do every single day in what is a very demanding area’.
“The report does highlight there are some areas where we can improve and we are working hard to address these.
“The inspection itself is certainly more rigorous these days, as it should be, and it is interesting to note that of the 88 inspections carried out across the country in this current round, half of the local authorities required improvement to be good, while just two are rated as outstanding.”
He added: “We are already addressing the areas for improvement, including introducing more robust procedures where children are placed outside their immediate family and reducing the caseloads of social workers. An action plan is being drawn up to ensure we address all the findings of the report in a timely manner.
“This is a difficult, complex and sometimes challenging area of work, but the public can have confidence we are doing all we can to protect and support children.”
Good rating for safeguarding board
Ofsted rated as good the effectiveness of the LSCB, the independent body which coordinates local work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and ensure the effectiveness of the member organisations’ work, individually and together.
It was described as playing ‘an active and often dynamic leadership role’ in monitoring and shaping services while promoting a ‘joined-up approach’.
Chairman Paula Mead said: “We’re delighted that the work of the LSCB has received positive national recognition during this latest round of inspections. This is a complex and extremely challenging area of work, with the welfare of children at the heart of everything we do. Ofsted inspectors highlighted a number of strengths, ranging from our partnership work to how we learned from Serious Case Reviews.”