Ofsted inspectors today published the findings of their latest review of Herefordshire Children’s Services.

Inspectors visited the council in September to review progress in its children in care service and today published their findings in a letter to the council’s Corporate Director for Children and Young People, Darryl Freeman.

Their letter says the ‘vast majority of children live in stable placements’, most children in care make progress with their physical health and education and most disabled children in care are placed with carers and in placements which meet their needs.

But it says that the pace of improvement is too slow, significant objectives within the council’s improvement plan are delayed or not on track, the quality of practice is inconsistent, and children experience too many changes of social worker.

Darryl Freeman said: “Ofsted’s latest monitoring visit focussed on children in care and the work we do to achieve permanence in their care arrangements. It comes after two earlier visits which recognised that progress was being made in other parts of the service.

“There are elements of praise in the letter they have published today – particularly around the way we work with disabled children in care – and this is the third visit where no safeguarding concerns were raised but we accept that there are too many areas where improvement is still not fast or consistent enough and the overall picture is not yet what we would want.

“We know this is an area where we face our hardest challenge and are grateful to the inspectors for their detailed and fair report. It will help us deliver our long-term improvement plan to build a service which meets the needs of the whole county.”

There is recognition that children more recently looked after are benefiting from practice improvement and services for disabled children are singled out in the report for particular praise.

“Social workers in this part of the service work sensitively and take a child focused approach including direct work to assist children to understand their circumstances and to progress transitions.”

But they say care plans, reports and assessments lack written detail, planning for children with complex needs is not sufficiently well considered and that more than 75 per cent of children in care have experienced changes of social worker in the last year.

The letter also concludes that the approach to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is not equitable or inclusive.

Darryl added: “Herefordshire – along with every local authority – faces national challenges regarding recruiting social workers and caring for unaccompanied children seeking asylum. But we are now starting to see an increase in the number of applications from social workers who want to join us because of the improvements we have already made and a recruitment drive to attract new staff.”

Councillor Jonathan Lester, Leader Herefordshire Council said: “This third monitoring inspection sets a clear challenge to us to increase the pace of our improvements. We remain wholeheartedly committed to the improvement plan and working with all our partners to create a service which we can all be proud of. it was pleasing to read of the improvements for recently looked after children and the recognition of the good work of our children with disabilities team.”

Children’s Services were judged to be inadequate during an Ofsted Inspection last July. When this happens Ofsted carries out regular monitoring visits which focus on areas which need most improvement.  

The report can be read on the Ofsted website.