Children’s Services in Bedford Borough ‘require improvement’ according to the latest Ofsted inspection.
Ofsted have published their latest report stating the council requires improvement in regards to children who need help and protection, children looked after and achieving permanence and leadership, management and governance.
Ofsted inspected Bedford Borough between January 23 and the February 16, examining around 200 case files and interviewing the Mayor and councillors, staff, partners and young people.
In the report, Ofsted state: “Although supervision takes place, it is not yet effective enough to ensure consistency of practice.
“Families in need of help benefit from a wide range of well-coordinated support to prevent their needs from escalating.
“Strategy meetings are effective, and, where appropriate, they lead to child protection enquiries and conferences for those children most at risk.
“The senior leadership team has set clear expectations and maintained its focus on improving the quality of frontline practice.”
The overall grade is ‘require improvement to be good’ and Ofsted judged both adoption performance and the experiences of care leavers as good.
The Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board was also inspected at the same time and was judged to be ‘good’.
Bedford Borough Council has welcomed the report and has set out a robust Action Plan to drive further improvement throughout the service and address the report’s recommendations to achieve this.
The inspection highlighted that despite progress, social work caseloads and the use of locums remain high.
The report added: “Many fail to capture the child’s voice through observation or direct work.
“Weaknesses in case recording, including delays in uploading documents, are evident across the service and limit the effectiveness of management oversight.”
The report emphasises that Bedford Borough has a good range of services and that these are improving outcomes for children, including those who have experienced domestic abuse.
Ofsted noted that ‘partners have a clear vision and commitment to working together to improve outcomes for all children in Bedford Borough’.
The inspection confirmed that senior managers have proactively responded to these challenging circumstances with a workforce strategy designed to improve recruitment and retention.
It also acknowledges the additional investment made by the council to support this and tackle these challenges.
Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “I welcome the Ofsted report which provides further evidence of our determination to have children’s services that consistently provide a good service. “The report confirms our own understanding of our improvement journey and we are investing a further £3million in the next three years to employ more social workers to ensure they have caseloads that mean they can work more effectively.
“We are also continuing to support our academy which is enabling new social workers to receive support in the early stages of their career.”
Councillor Shan Hunt, lead member for Children’s Services added: “The welfare of children is paramount.
“I’m pleased that Ofsted have recognised that children at risk of harm are identified appropriately by Bedford Borough Council, and that swift action is taken to ensure they are safe.”