NORFOLK: Action in the wake of ‘inadequate’ Ofsted

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Norfolk County Council is taking immediate action to improve its safeguarding services in the county following a judgement of “inadequate” from Ofsted.

The County Council is stepping up the pace of improvement following the Ofsted inspection of its arrangements for the protection of children that highlighted some examples of very positive practice, but offered an overall judgement of “inadequate”.

Lisa Christensen, Director of Children’s Services at the County Council, said: “This is not good enough for Norfolk children and families, and we are determined to do more, and faster to improve our service.

“Our prime concern is, and will always be, the protection, health and well being of Norfolk children and young people. Inspectors have given us some very clear messages about how we must improve our safeguarding service across the board and we will rise to the challenge they have set us.

“Ofsted has raised the bar with these inspections, but children and families have the right to expect the highest standards of service so this judgement is simply not good enough.

“We know where performance needs to be better and we’re focussed on the key issues identified in the report to ensure we turn the motivation and dedication of our staff into consistently excellent and child focussed practice that offers effective early help for Norfolk families, and keeps children and young people safe.

Alison Thomas, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “This judgement is very disappointing, and clearly there are a number of operational issues that need to be addressed.

“I know there is good practice in our arrangements to protect children but the challenge is to make sure that this is consistently good right across the county. I am pleased that Ofsted inspectors noted the strong commitment to protecting children shown by the Director, Chief Executive and I, together with our determination to champion children’s issues at corporate level and ensure sufficient resources are available.

“We must now move forward and I will have very clear oversight of the formal improvement plan and working very hard with the director and the Department for Education to bring about the necessary improvements as quickly as possible.”

Despite Ofsted’s single word judgement, inspectors highlighted examples of positive practice in their report and noted that in key areas, such as improving workforce planning and development, the Authority was moving in the right direction.

The report said the development of the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) “against a backdrop of budget reductions” added “considerable value to the council and its partners’ initial response to risk of harm”. The MASH brings together police, health and adults social care in the same office so they can respond quickly and effectively to child protection concerns in Norfolk.

Inspectors also commented on the County Council’s decision to recommission children’s centres, describing it as having “strengthened some aspects of early help provision” with centres now focussing “more clearly on helping vulnerable families”.

The report also highlighted strong corporate and political leadership, and said social work staff felt “supported and have access to training and supervision”. It also noted that families had mostly positive experiences of early intervention and could identify improvements in their lives and for their child. Young people and parents were also positive about the support they were receiving from the County Council.

The County Council is now working with staff to bring about immediate improvements to the service. Discussions will shortly be held with the Department for Education to agree the arrangements for overseeing the improvement work that is required.