In a hopeful step forward for Herefordshire Children’s Services, the second Ofsted monitoring visit has noted continuous improvements being made. Nonetheless, inspectors advise that further advancements are necessary to establish consistency within the services. The local council’s attention to children in need of support and protection was the primary focus of the June visit, with the findings published today.
Darryl Freeman, the council’s Corporate Director for Children and Young people, expressed agreement with the inspectors' feedback, stating, "The inspectors say that ‘practice is starting to improve and positive progress is being made with some families’, but add that the quality of practice in this area remains variable. That is a fair assessment and very much reflects our own analysis of the improvements to date. We know we are on the right path but that the pace of change needs to be quicker and improvements more consistently embedded."
Mr Freeman has expressed optimism about the partnership with Leeds City Council and anticipates that their expertise will be invaluable in developing the service to its full potential. He was heartened by inspectors acknowledging areas of significant improvement, such as management oversight, supervision, and audit processes. It was also noted that senior managers are proactive in learning from external organisations.
Highlighting the inspectors' positive feedback on Herefordshire as a supportive working environment for social workers, Mr Freeman conceded that more work is needed to ensure practice consistency, reduce staff turnover, decrease re-referrals by ensuring sustainable change, and improve handling of children’s plans. He added that the issues identified by inspectors regarding housing and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are also being addressed.
Last July, Children’s Services were judged to be inadequate during an Ofsted inspection. Following this, regular monitoring visits were instigated by Ofsted to assess the most critical areas for improvement. The report published today results from the second of these monitoring visits.
Council leader, Councillor Jonathan Lester, views the report as a positive indication of progress, saying, "It is encouraging to note that the service is improving. 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."