Friday 12 April 2024
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‘Real challenges’ remain in Nottingham’s inadequate children’s services

Nottingham’s children’s services are facing some “real challenges” following an inadequate Ofsted report last year.

Inspectors rated Labour-run Nottingham City Council’s children’s services as ‘inadequate’ in 2022, and said children had been left at risk of harm.

An action plan is now in place and progress is being monitored by an improvement board.

Should the council fail to make necessary changes, an external commissioner could be appointed.

As part of the work to rapidly improve the services, consultants expected to cost the council roughly £6.5m have been brought in for two years.

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Eight areas of improvement have been identified, including timeliness of responses to children’s needs, as well as social work capacity and response to young people who present as homeless.

Ofsted’s first monitoring visit took place at the start of the year, when progress and an action plan were noted.

But during a meeting on the services on Tuesday, March 28, Ailsa Barr, the director of children’s integrated services at the council, said “real challenges” remain, particularly in getting enough foster home provision and placements for children in care.

Providing an update she said: “We have increased some social work capacity and service manager capacity in our multi-agency safeguarding hub.

“We’ve also implemented a recruitment and retention package for our experienced social workers, to both attract but also retain social workers.

“We’ve secured additional resources for our missing from home team.

“Our interviews for those staff were completed a few weeks ago and we anticipate the team being expanded in size within the next month.”

Further monitoring visits will now take place in the future to address remaining concerns.

Karon Foulkes, Head of Children’s Commissioning and Transformation for the NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB questioned whether there is anything all organisations should be doing to work together better, including the healthcare system.

“Obviously you’ll be aware of children who are taken to emergency departments and there is nowhere else for them to go and they are sometimes, inappropriately for them, having to hang around for hours or days there or on the wards, so any insight would be helpful,” she said.

Ms Barr added: “I think every situation is really challenging.

“One of the things I think as a whole system we will need to get our heads around and think about some more is the information that has come out of the national care review.

“What we have seen over the last 10 to 15 years is an exponential rise of children coming into care. That is national, not just local, and that means as system leaders we need to think carefully about the outcomes of children who come into care.

“Sometimes there is no option other than a child to come into our care, but sometimes there is a need for us to think imaginatively about how we use the resources we have got differently, in order to maintain a child living in their extended family or kinship network, or living within their foster placement locally rather than going far away.

“I think one of the complications for us is that many of our children with the most complex needs are not living anywhere near the city at the moment.

“And so that becomes more complicated because we are potentially talking about children who our own mental health services in the region don’t know because they have lived outside of the city for a long time and that becomes challenging.

“Those children remain the local authority’s responsibility, but from a health perspective the provider is wherever that child is living and that can become hard to navigate through.”

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