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Nottingham City Council must improve its children’s services following Ofsted visit

The service was given a ‘requires improvement’ grade by Ofsted in 2018.

Nottingham City Council says a ‘large scale of change’ is still required in protecting children after inspectors raised concerns about the way its service was being run.

The service was given a ‘requires improvement’ grade by Ofsted in 2018.

The organisation then looked at the council’s children’s services again in February 2020.

On this visit they found the experience of children in need of help and protection had “deteriorated”, and an action plan was set up to address “systemic failures” in social work practice.

Other areas of concern were “the significant shortfall” in capacity to enable social workers and managers to respond effectively to children in need of help and protection.

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The service was again visited during the pandemic in June 2021 where inspectors found evidence of improvements but from “a very low starting point”.

The council says it is “realistic about the progress they have made and about the large scale of change still required” to improve the lives of children living in Nottingham.

Following the June 2021 visit, Ofsted said most social work vacancies in the fieldwork team had been filled and most team managers are now permanent. The council has also reduced its reliance on agency staff.

However, while some social workers are having more time to spend with children and families, caseloads still remain too high for some experienced social workers.

And while children are being seen regularly, the “quality and frequency of direct work being undertaken with them varies”.

The report also recognised a difficult year for the council responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It states: “Inspectors saw an example of excellent, creative direct work with a young child, which informed their assessment and plan.

“However, this is not happening for enough children, resulting in their life experiences not always being understood and their views not being central to assessments, plans and reviews.

“The quality of assessments remains variable. In better ones, social workers demonstrated an understanding of the child’s experiences and the impact of issues such as domestic abuse, substance misuse and parental mental ill health have on them.

“Weaker assessments do not fully analyse all needs and risks. Some assessments are not updated when children’s circumstances significantly change. Some parenting assessments are significantly delayed, which has an impact on the effectiveness of planning for children.”

Parents spoken to during Ofsted’s visit said it was hard to have a clear understanding of what is required of them, and by when, to help ensure that their child’s life improves.

The report added: “Too many children in Nottingham continue to be the subjects of repeat or long periods on a child protection or child in need plan, often for the same reasons.

“Interventions in these plans have not been successful in bringing about sustained positive change for some children, resulting in them living in neglectful situations for too long.

“Leaders have now recognised that long and repeat plans are areas that need more robust management oversight.

“In response, a pilot panel, chaired by the head of service, has been established to review children on repeat plans or plans exceeding 15 months more thoroughly to prevent drift and delay. It is too soon to see the impact of this.”

In response to the initial inspection in February 2020, the council invested a one-off cash spend of £1.7m to deliver the improvement plan for children, young people, and families.

There was no inspection rating given during the focused visit in June 2021.

A full Ofsted inspection is expected in early 2022.

The council says there is a significant financial risk should Children’s Services fail to address the concerns highlighted.

Councillors sitting on the council’s Executive Board discussed the report on Tuesday, September 21, and accepted the findings.

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