Children in care service will remain ‘inadequate’ until 2015 warns Northamptonshire County Council

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County Hall bosses have admitted services for children in care in Northamptonshire are likely to be regarded as “inadequate” by Ofsted bosses for at least the next two years.

The admission comes following the publication of yet another damning report, which was released this morning, following an inspection into services for looked after children in the county.

The new, highly-critical, Ofsted report labelled social services provided by Northamptonshire County Council as “inadequate” in all areas.

It revealed youngsters are still being illegally kept in prison cells overnight, due to the “lack of effective communication” between police and social care services.

It found many kids in care “continue to receive an inadequate service from social care”, how they are often unable to see the same social worker, and labelled the improvements made by the county council since the last inspection as “slow”.

The report is the latest in a series of inspections that have lifted the lid on the scandal of children’s social services in Northamptonshire, which have also heavily criticised Northamptonshire Police.

The report did acknowledge the county council has begun to make improvements, but senior staff admitted they face a two-year battle to turn around “a legacy of poor management, practice and partner agency engagement”.

Asked when the county may next be regarded as merely “adequate” by inspectors, Alex Hopkins, director for children and education, said: “I think two years.”

He added it would be “exceptional”, based on previous cases in other parts of the country, for changes to be acknowledged much sooner.

Councillor Catherine Boardman, cabinet member for children and education, added: “That is not because we won’t have done the work, it will be because we haven’t demonstrated in all areas that it (the changes) is embedded and consistent.”

She added: “I have indicated that I believe it will be two years before we are able to turn this service around.

“It is a new team and it (the process) is root and branch. Absolutely everything, right down to the tiniest, minutest detail, has been reviewed, has been rewritten, the pathways have been rewritten, structures have been written, the action plans have been rewritten.”

During a press briefing yesterday, it also emerged how three out of four managers in the looked after children department have now left the organisation, with temporary replacements being brought in.

Mr Hopkins said: “Where practice was poor and where people weren’t doing the job they were paid to do, they are no longer working for us.

“In some cases there was immediate action, in some cases they were given the opportunity to grow and develop.

“In any improvement process like this you always end up in a situation in the early days where some people have to leave, they have to go and do something else, and you bring in temporary people.

“It is what you do then to bring in high-quality permanent staff to deliver the sustained improvement I have talked about.

“In the looked after children services, quite a lot of team managers are no longer with us.”