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Improvements in council's child protection services
THE county’s child protection services - branded inadequate last year - are improving but still have a long way to go, say Ofsted inspectors in a report published today.
Since the initial report published in April 2012, which highlighted “significant failings” Wiltshire Council leaders say there has been a major overhaul of the department with changes in senior management, training procedures and protection plans for the most vulnerable children.
An additional £4m has been invested into safeguarding services with new social workers recruited and a multi-agency board set up to monitor progress. Every single case in the system was also reviewed with more staff being taken on to conduct the audit.
The change in procedures has seen the number of children now with a protection plan almost double from 187 last April to 366 this July, with the number of children in need (one level lower than those at risk of significant harm) increasing from 1,446 last April to 1,525 this July. Inspectors, who carried out the unannounced two-week inspection last month, looking at more than 120 children’s cases, rated the safeguarding measures as “adequate”, saying it now meets the minimum requirements but highlighted the need for immediate action with regard to detailed plans for children in need.
Terence Herbert, head of service community safeguarding at Wiltshire Council, said: “Our focus was on the most vulnerable children which means those children at risk of suffering significant harm and requiring protection plans. Ofsted has said that we have done that and done it well. We need to now ensure that the plans we have in place for children in need are well written with detailed action plans, training and robust reviews in place.”
In the new report inspectors recognised the “swift and effective” response of senior leaders at the council and its partners, which include the NHS, police and schools, praising the “prompt and successful delivery of an ambitious improvement plan”. The council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Laura Mayes, said there had been a “real culture change” within the whole department.
“It’s a very different organisation to what it was,” she said.
“The increased scrutiny and oversight over all these cases has had a real impact and obviously this is better for the children. The protection plans are now much more focused and the parents have clearer objectives to meet.”
Council leader Jane Scott added: “This is a significant step forward and I am pleased that the improvements we put in place immediately following the first Ofsted inspection have shown how seriously we take the protection of children in Wiltshire. “In the next four years we aspire to be at least good if not outstanding, and that’s what we will continue to work towards.”
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