An Ofsted inspection of Nottingham City Council’s Children’s Services was carried out in July 2022. The inspection found that more work is needed to ensure children and young people get the right care and support at the right time, while also acknowledging the strengths.
Regular inspections are carried out by Ofsted at all councils that provide support and care for children who are vulnerable or at risk.
Nottingham’s inspection took place from 4-22 July. The full report, published on 5 September, identified some key areas for improvement:
- A quicker response when children are first identified as being at-risk
- More social workers to support children and young people
- More places for children who need to come into care
- Greater support for people aged over 21 who leave care
- More help for young people aged 16 and 17 who are homeless
- Better monitoring of children who are absent from school
Ofsted judged the council’s Children’s Services to be ‘Inadequate’. This is a lower rating than the previous ‘Requires Improvement’ judgment in 2019.
Although more work is needed, the inspectors acknowledged that improvements had already been made in Children’s Services. In particular, they found:
- Children are well-supported once they are allocated a social worker. Strong relationships are formed between the social worker and the families they help
- A clear process is in place to intervene when a child’s circumstances are not improving
- Children are matched for adoption much more quickly and siblings are often adopted together
- Foster carers provide consistent, good quality care
- The emotional and mental health needs of children are being met
- Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are well supported
- The service works well with partners to provide the best outcomes for children and young people
During the visit, Inspectors noted that City Councillors and the Chief Executive remain committed to improving the quality of Children’s Services, despite the financial challenges being faced by the local authority.
An action plan to address the areas for improvement is now being drawn up by the council.
Cllr Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Schools, said: “I am sorry that some children are not getting the right help at the right time and I accept that our overall performance is not where it should be.
“Please be assured that everyone in our Children’s Services team is committed to providing the best possible care in our city – and will do whatever it takes to improve. Our children and young people deserve nothing less.
“I am confident that we have the right people in place to take on board all of the feedback and recommendations from Ofsted and provide the right care and support.
“In particular, it is encouraging that Ofsted acknowledged the improvements we have made – as well as the strong relationships our social workers build with children and young people who need our help and support.
“While these improvements will provide a firm foundation from which to build, consistency is important in all parts of the service.
“We accept the findings of the report and are committed to improving – and will work with all concerned to continue to keep our children safe.
“We’ve taken immediate action over the summer to make swift improvement in key areas, such as engaging more agency social workers to support whilst we recruit more permanent staff. We have moved swiftly to agree recruitment for additional officers to support the service when children go missing and to work with children who are leaving care.
“We have also increased our management oversight of decision making when information is first received by children’s services and we will be recruiting to permanently secure this in the service.
“Improving our service is about more than just improving the Ofsted rating… it’s about making sure children benefit from the best services possible, making sure they remain are safe, protected and inspired to reach their full potential.”
Rosa Waddingham, Chair of Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Partnership, said: “The Nottingham City Children’s Safeguarding Partnership works together to ensure the best possible care for the children in our city and has strong relationships across health, local authority and police partners which support this. We recognise the huge amount of hard work which is being put in by leaders and staff right across the partnership’s organisations, in particular the local authority.
“The partnership is committed to keeping our children safe and recognised in advance of the Ofsted inspection some key areas where additional leadership and resource were needed to address concerns around how children initially access the care they need, including through our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub. We also recognise that more pace is needed in recruiting additional permanent staff to support the changes needed to keep children safe. The partnership is keen to accelerate this work to continue to ensure that despite some failings children are not at increased risk.
“But there is more to do and as safeguarding partners we will continue to work collaboratively to support and deliver a comprehensive response to the challenges noted by Ofsted. We are assured that there is a plan in place to address these concerns and our partnership will continue to check that the actions needed to keep children safe are delivered.”
The City Councilwill have a series of Ofsted monitoring visits, followed by a full re-inspection. Between four and six monitoring visits are likely to be carried out over the next 18 months with the first one likely to take place late winter 2022 / early spring 2023. The focus of the visits will be upon areas where improvement is most needed, but inspectors will also check that performance in other areas has not deteriorated.
Progress against the Children’s Services improvement plan is monitored and overseen by the Children at the Heart Improvement Board. This will be led by an Independent Chair commissioned by the Department for Education to ensure robust challenge of improvement plan. The full Ofsted report is published on the City Council website here: www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/childrensofsted