Progress in Wakefield’s inadequate children’s services is took slow

Beate Wagner
Beate Wagner

Progress in Wakefield’s inadequate children’s services is too slow and chances are still being missed to protect vulnerable children, Ofsted said.

The watchdog has released its latest findings after a two-day inspection last month.

Although Ofsted said that several improvements have been made within the service since it was first placed in special measures in July last year, it added that “weaknesses” in identifying risk to vulnerable children remained.

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In a letter, the regulator said “not all frontline managers consistently challenge poor practice” and inspectors saw “missed opportunities” in addressing children’s needs.

The report said: “The local authority recognises that weaknesses in identifying risk remain, that too many assessments are poor and that child protection investigations are not consistently thorough.

“While some children are receiving better assessments of risk, for too many children this is not the case. Some investigations fail to fully explore risk because some social workers focus on presenting issues and too often lack professional curiosity in understanding children’s broader needs and risks.”

Wakefield Council was praised for securing more manageable workloads for social workers and recruiting extra staff. The report stated, caseloads have been halved from around 40 per social worker last year.

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Ofsted also said the council’s response to allegations against professionals who work with children has “significantly improved”.

Workers were credited with “finding creative ways to engage” with children who go missing from home and that the local authority had stepped up internal scrutiny of the service.

In a statement, corporate director for children and young people, Beate Wagner, said: “We are acutely aware of the significant challenges we face and welcome Ofsted’s feedback, which supports our own findings.

“The inspectors make it clear that we absolutely know what needs to be done and they agree that it will take time to fully implement the changes given the scale of improvement needed.

“We, like Ofsted, want to see an increasing difference made as a result of the actions we have taken. However, we also know that change is not sustainable without the firm foundations we have been building.”