Herefordshire’s children’s services department has been told it still has plenty to do following a monitoring visit by Government inspectorate Ofsted.

The regular visits began after the department was given an ‘Inadequate’ inspection rating a year ago, prompting direct Government intervention.

The inspectors’ latest visit at the end of June focussed on the department’s care of children in need or subject to a protection plan.

Their resulting letter to the council, published today (August 2), says Herefordshire Council’s practice in this area “remains variable”.

Among the positives, they found:

  • Practice within the department “is starting to improve and positive progress is being made with some families”.
  • Social workers “like working in Herefordshire and feel well supported”, and “value the training and development they receive”.
  • Following the department’s partnership with Leeds City Council, senior managers “are proactive and open to learning from external organisations… and have welcomed the opportunity for peer support to aid service improvement”.

Negatives included:

  • Council leaders’ commitment to improving children’s social care “is not yet having sufficient impact”.
  • There has “not been enough progress” in the “critical” area of recruitment and retention of staff, leading to “drift and delay” for children, while those who are recruited experience “inconsistent inductions”.
  • “Too many children” still experience repeated interventions from the department, often because their cases are closed before improvements have been sustained.
  • In such cases, “over-optimistic risk assessments” can lead to children facing “unassessed risks”.
  • A historic lack of face-to-face meetings has meant that families “have not always met professionals who make important decisions about their lives”.
  • When families need re-housing, “it takes too long to resolve and is not sufficiently prioritised by housing partners”.
  • When unaccompanied asylum-seeking children come into the council’s care, “there is a delay of up to two weeks before they become looked after”, leaving them “exposed to safeguarding concerns” in adult accommodation.

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


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“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.”