Children’s services report - Ofsted describe cautious signs of improvement after previous 'inadequate' rating

    Friday, July 16th, 2021 10:04am

    By Ollie Heptinstall, Local Democracy Reporter

    Improvements to children’s services run by Devon County Council are starting to be made but ‘nothing is completely fixed’ according to inspectors. That was one of the findings in a letter from inspector Nigel Parkes to Melissa Caslake, the county’s recently appointed chief officer for children’s services, following a two-day visit from Ofsted in May.

    Children’s services report

    Improvements to children’s services run by Devon County Council are starting to be made but ‘nothing is completely fixed’ according to inspectors.
    That was one of the findings in a letter from inspector Nigel Parkes to Melissa Caslake, the county’s recently appointed chief officer for children’s services, following a two-day visit from Ofsted in May.
    It comes after the service in Devon, excluding Torbay and Plymouth which are run separately, were last year rated as inadequate. ‘Serious failures’ were identified with a very small minority of care-leavers left living in unacceptable accommodation, of which senior leaders were unaware.
    Today’s report acknowledges the impact of covid and says the authority and its partners have “risen to the challenge, delivering a well-coordinated and effective response”.
    It noted caution, however, adding that whilst a number of ‘under the bonnet repairs’ had been successfully carried out, the service was still “at the start of its improvement journey and ‘nothing is completely fixed.”
    There was also criticism of some aspects of the service. Mr Parkes said in the report: “The help and protection, care and support that many children receive are still poor.”
    Inspectors are also concerned at staff recruitment and retention, which is described as “extremely problematic”.
    It adds that prompt action is taken to protect children at immediate risk of harm but decision-making in less urgent cases still takes too long.
    The report concludes: “There is no reason to doubt the county council’s support for children’s social care services, but the quality and effectiveness of scrutiny and critical challenge provided by elected members and the corporate centre are not yet fully developed.”
    Reacting to the report, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter (Conservative, Wearside &Topsham), cabinet member for children’s services and schools said: “We are pleased that it says our effort is well co-ordinated and effective for our vulnerable children.
    “Obviously we could do better, and I’m new in post so it’s my aim that we will do better, and that’s what I’m going to work night and day to achieve.
    “We’ve got a new director of children’s services [Ms Caslake]. She’s not been in post very long. She’s excellent and has lots of experience, so I’ll be doing everything I can to support her and all our staff to improve our service and get us up to an excellent rating.”
    Cllr Leadbetter acknowledged: “there is a problem with recruitment” and said  staff would be offered improved pay and conditions in a letter to be sent to them later this year.
    “There is lots of work going on about how we improve this, because we recognise that we need to get more social workers.”
    The opposition leader on Devon County Council said children’s services have been failing for “eight long years” and called for a “root and branch review” of the service.
    In a statement, Councillor Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster & Haldon) said: “There is praise for a good number of areas of the work undertaken by children’s services, but when you go behind the surface what you read is a service that has been struggling for years and there simply has been a failure by the council to get a real grip to turn it around and tackle the problems.
    “For eight long years children’s services, which should care for and protect the most vulnerable children and young people in Devon have simply been failing. County Hall bosses speak the words of improvement but year upon year, the service is not improving. However, other councils have made improvements and it shows it can be done.”
    Chief officer for children’s services, Melissa Caslake, said: “We have risen to the challenge of covid, by maintaining our services to children and families during the pandemic, ensuring greater school attendance than nationally, especially for vulnerable children, and enabling schools, partners and communities to come together to deliver a well-co-ordinated and effective response.
    “I am proud that Ofsted have recognised this work and want to thank all of my staff and partners who have made this possible through their determination and hard work.
    “We have much more to do to deliver the best outcomes for children and we will relentlessly pursue this ambition to ensure children get the service they deserve. I am pleased that the progress made so far, through the efforts and commitment of staff, has been acknowledged.”
     

    More from Devon News

    • New educational facility all about the value of water opens

      A brand-new interactive visitor centre designed to teach children and adults about the value of water is mixing education with enjoyment has been opened. The Value of Water centre and dry-weather garden is a partnership project between South West Water and South West Lakes, located at the Roadford Lake in Lifton.

    • Dawlish Sea Wall reaches important landmark

      The sea wall at Dawlish has reached an “important landmark” following installation of143 concrete wall panel. Network Rail, who are carrying out the work, say that work on the second section on the project is progressing well after the concrete panels ranging from 6.09 to 6.69 metres in size and each weighing between 11.55 to 12.95 tonnes have been fitted

    • Covid weekly update

      ovid cases have fallen in every council area in Devon except Exeter. The city’s infection rate has risen by 27 per cent in the last seven days (to 29 July) making it the highest in the county, with 505 cases per 100,000 people, significantly higher than the national average of 280.

    • Man jailed for sex outside the Cathedral

      A drunken sex offender has been jailed for ignoring an order and having sex with a teenage student outside Exeter Cathedral

    • Councils’ devolution bid

      Councils across Devon are to launch a bid for more devolved powers from Westminster. The move comes after the government announced it was looking at reviewing its current arrangements with the counties and local authorities.

    • Nightingale hospital to help reduce waiting lists in the County

      From this autumn, Exeter's NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter will be helping to tackle the lengthy waiting lists for operations in Devon and the southwest. After being decommissioned as a Covid-19 hospital earlier this year. The Nightingale has since been used to provide diagnostic scans to local people, host a Covid-19 vaccine trial and train overseas nurses.

    • A373 Closed following car crashing into electricity pole

      The A373 between Cullompton and Honiton is partially blocked by a damaged electricity pole following a two-vehicle collision caused by a medical episode this morning.

    • Starcross enhancement scheme

      A number of improvements to the main road though Starcross to help alleviate traffic problems and improve safety have been approved. The stretch of the A379 through the village is known for pinch-points, especially a narrow section between the pillars and a convenience store, where traffic queues.

    Schedule

    Tide Times

    Today's Weather

    • Exmouth

      Light rain

      High: 19°C | Low: 13°C

    • Sidmouth

      Light rain shower

      High: 19°C | Low: 14°C

    • Exeter

      Sunny intervals

      High: 20°C | Low: 14°C

    • Dawlish

      Light rain

      High: 19°C | Low: 15°C

    What's On

    • Sidmouth Folk Festival

      Organisers of The Sidmouth Folk Festival aim to put on a week of music, dance and family entertainment this summer. Billed as A Celebration of Sidmouth Folk Festival, the event from July 30 until August 6, will be an ‘authentic taste’ of the traditional event. John Braithwaite, festival director, said: “We are looking forward to this special celebration, as we thank everyone who helped the festival survive last year’s cancellation and to secure its future.

      at Blackmore Gardens
    • Exmouth Country Market - 8.30 til 11.30am

      Cooperative market selling cakes, meals, savouries, preserves, eggs, plants, crafts, vegetables and fruit. All home made and locally produced

      at The Glenorchy Hall
    • An Adorably Curious Adventure

      Are you curious? Do you like adventures? Then get ready to explore The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon with this fun family activity trail. Feed your curiosity and discover all things adorable with a donkey adventure like no other. Simply find the A-Z of fun donkey facts around the sanctuary and complete the trail activities as you go to claim a prize and sticker. The adventure is split into two parts – one short trail and one a little longer. For the first part, locate eight donkey facts around the main sanctuary and find the hidden letters to complete the missing word. Why let the fun stop there? For the super inquisitive and serious explorers among you, follow the trail around the sanctuary’s wider walkways to complete the second part of the adventure (optional), finding 18 more hidden letters to complete the missing phrase. This entertaining activity combines family fun, exercise and brainpower and is just £5 per trail, including the prize and sticker. Head to The Shed to pick up a trail sheet and away you go on your adventure. Plus with daily talks, scenic walks, engaging exhibits, award-winning gardens and, of course, hundreds of adorable donkeys to meet, there’s so much to explore with your own herd, whatever the weather. Take sanctuary in the Taste of the West award-winning restaurant, The Kitchen, and enjoy fresh, local, seasonal produce while soaking in the unparalleled coast and country views. Breakfasts, lunches and tempting afternoon treats are served daily, with every penny of profit helping donkeys and mules around the world. Before heading home, browse the Gift Shop at leisure in the knowledge that every purchase goes towards helping donkeys in need. Packed with unique donkey-design items and souvenirs, you will find something for everyone. Make the day your own, but above all else, fall in love with the herds of donkeys. From humble beginnings as a UK rescue mission over 50 years ago, The Donkey Sanctuary has grown into one of the world’s largest equine welfare charities. The sanctuary is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Entry and parking is FREE (donations welcome), and dogs on leads are welcome. A range of safety measures are in place to protect visitors, staff, volunteers and donkeys, and full details on visiting can be found on The Donkey Sanctuary website. Further information www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sidmouth | 01395 578222 | enquiries@thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk All proceeds help fund the work of The Donkey Sanctuary Worldwide.

      at The Donkey Sanctuary