CAMBS County Council’s child protection provision has been rated as “inadequate” by government inspectors who compiled their report after making an unannounced inspection.
Overall effectiveness, the effectiveness of the help and protection provided to children, young people, families and carers and the quality of practice were all rated as inadequate.
Leadership and governance was said to be adequate.
Inspectors from OfSTED – the Office for Standards in Education – highlighted inconsistencies in case recording, and variable practice in teams. They particularly noted shortcomings in a former temporary team operating in the north of the county.
Inspectors also found some cases where children were not visited frequently enough, and examples of where procedures for recording child protection investigation decisions were not always followed.
The council has responded saying work has already started to address these weaknesses and that many of the issues raised were already being tackled when inspectors arrived and an action plan to accelerate improvements is already in place.
Inspectors did praise areas of provision saying the Council worked hard to improve the services they provide to children and families and praised the early effectiveness of the new social work model Social Work - Working for Families.
They highlighted the work of children’s centres, schools and professionals who work with families, highlighting the Multi-Agency Referral Unit (MARU) and Contact Centre as first points of contact.
They said ‘ambitious’ leadership was exercised across the Council, including elected members, the chief executive and through engaging key stakeholders.
“This is very clearly demonstrated through the determination to change traditional social work practice through the introduction of the new social work units,” said their report.
“The investment in all staff to be trained at different levels in systemic practice is impressive. The political will to preserve child protection services and to improve them through a number of spend to save initiatives provides a strong foundation on which to complete these ambitious plans.”
Cllr David Brown, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services said: “We accept the findings of the OfSTED inspection, which identified much that is good about the authority’s arrangements to protect children, but also weaknesses.
“It is important to recognise that this was not an inspection of Children and Young People’s Services as a whole. It was an inspection of a small - albeit very important - aspect of what we do.
“The key weakness concerning the practice of the team in the north had been identified by the authority and actions were taken to review the cases concerned and some staffing changes were made. The cases are now back on track and appropriate action is being taken.
“An improvement plan was drawn up immediately after the inspection and actions have been taken to address the most immediate issues identified by the inspectors.
“The findings reflect why we are in the process of making fundamental changes to how children’s social care is delivered. Practice and recording have been too inconsistent and this will be improved by the new ways of working that are being introduced. The inspectors reported that they could see the positive difference that these changes are already making.”