A MAJOR inspection of Herefordshire Council’s “inadequate” child protection service is underway.
OFSTED is undertaking a root and branch review of progress the service may have made since being ranked amongst the worst in the country in 2012.
Then, every area of child safeguarding practice in the county was branded “inadequate”.
The council hopes measures taken since have moved the service on, but it is already acknowledged that improvements have some way to go.
OFSTED moved in at the end of last month for an inspection expected to last at least four weeks.
The process includes case file auditing and case tracking where inspectors will follow up on a number of children to see what their experience of the system has been.
A preview of the resulting report will be put to the council with the final report due out by July.
The council is committed to reaching a “good” rating for child safeguarding by 2016.
Last month, the council interpreted a national poll as saying its child protection teams had seen case loads cut.
With the service seeing its overall caseload approach 2,000, individual case load reduction and management are essential to improvement plans, as are staff recruitment and retention and better record keeping.
OFSTED has recognised the serious impact on already strained frontline morale with added pressure from performance management.
Despite additional resources since, teams continue to report real challenges over workloads.
On average, a social worker in children’s services can be expected to deal with dozens of cases at any one time.
A cut in caseloads does not mean a fall in child protection cases.
In Herefordshire, the council says, case loads have fallen from 35 per case worker to 16 since the “inadequate” rating.