Inspectors praise for turnaround in fortunes of Cambridgeshire County Council’s children’s services

Shire Hall Cambridge. Shire Hall Cambridge.

Friday, August 8, 2014
11:32 AM

Government inspectors have rated Cambridgeshire County Council as ‘overall good’ for its arrangements for children in need of help and protection and children in care.

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The ‘good’ judgement by Ofsted comes less than two years after a similar inspection rated the authority’s safeguarding procedures as ‘inadequate.’

This if the first time a local authority in the country has gone from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ for child protection – a leap of two categories to the second highest.

Inspectors said council leaders and senior managers responded ‘purposefully and systematically’ to the improvement agenda following the previous inspection.

“Lead members and senior officers demonstrate a good knowledge of the needs of all children in Cambridgeshire,” said the inspectors’ report.

The new model of social work practice in the county was particularly praised. Inspectors said social workers told them they felt safe, secure and valued in an environment where good social work practice could flourish.

“Senior managers are viewed as being supportive and visible, and they have high expectations of their social workers in terms of performance and quality standards. Social workers have told inspectors that they are proud to work in Cambridgeshire because of the sustained support they receive from skilled, experienced and accessible managers,” the report added.

Adoption was also singled out as ‘good’ by inspectors. They said a ‘strong sense of urgency and purposeful work’ could be seen in achieving permanency for those children unable to return home.

“Permanency planning in Cambridgeshire is rigorous and is subject to regular senior management oversight and scrutiny,” they said.

Inspectors noted that Cambridgeshire was in the top 25 per cent of local authorities for the number of looked after children being adopted – increasing year on year to 17 per cent in 2013.

Leadership, management and governance were rated overall as ‘good’ by the inspection team.

They said that by February 2013 the council had acted upon all the recommendations of the previous inspection and had developed a further improvement plan which went beyond the requirements of the improvement notice.

The report identified one area which required improvement – children who need help and protection.

Cllr Joan Whitehead, chairman of the Cambridgeshire children and young people’s committee said: “We are delighted with this report. It is testimony to the huge amount of hard work done by elected members, managers and frontline staff since the previous inspection.

“There are of course areas where we still need to improve, but it is encouraging that we were aware of these and had already started work on addressing them.”

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