Wakefield children's services making 'steady progress', Ofsted says

Wakefield's children's services is making "steady progress", 15 months after it was placed in special measures, Ofsted's latest report on the department has said.

The watchdog said that managers at the service are "working tirelessly" to improve life for children in the care of the council, after inspectors visited the authority on October 9 and 10.

Wakefield Town Hall.

Wakefield Town Hall.

Ofsted has closely monitored the department ever since it was rated inadequate in the summer of 2018, when a number of failings within the service were highlighted.

Now, in its most positive assessment of Wakefield's children's services since then, Ofsted said that case recording, which was identified as a weakness last year, has "significantly improved" and vulnerable children were seeing "positive change".

Wakefield Council welcomed the findings, saying they were "pleased" with the regulator's feedback.

In the report, made public on Friday, inspectors said: "The local authority is making steady progress in improving services for its children and young people in need of help and protection.

Beate Wagner, the corporate director for children and young people, said the council was "pleased" with Ofsted's feedback.

Beate Wagner, the corporate director for children and young people, said the council was "pleased" with Ofsted's feedback.

"Extensive work in building core service foundations means that circumstances are improving for some children.

"Children are now regularly seen by their social workers, and more recent social work practice is leading to improved outcomes for some through better focused interventions."

On improved case recording, the report added: "The local authority has redesigned and relaunched new systems for recording children’s experiences, and continues to design a suite of new templates to support improving practice.

"Work with children is now routinely recorded."

Councillor Peter Box said he was leaving the service in "good hands".

Councillor Peter Box said he was leaving the service in "good hands".

Ofsted also highlighted some shortcomings within the service, saying that the effect of repeat neglect on some children is "not always explored and understood".

It added that poor practice was still sometimes unchallenged by senior managers.

Reacting to the report, the council's corporate director for children and young people, Beate Wagner, said: "Overall, we are pleased with Ofsted’s feedback.

"They could see the developments since their last visit and that we continue to build and strengthen the foundations to provide a robust service.

"They saw improved recording, routine auditing, robust performance monitoring and stronger management oversight.

“Importantly, they saw that our focus on the quality of practice is now gaining traction and highlighted improvements in core social work practice and multi-agency planning.

“However, we are not there yet. We still have a lot of work before us which we are approaching in a systematic and staged manner."

The outgoing leader of the authority, Coun Peter Box, said he was leaving his role "knowing the service was in safe hands".

In a statement issued by the council on Friday, he said: "I am very pleased with the progress that we have made in strengthening our service for our young people.

"I knew that we could do it and am pleased that the Department for Education agreed last year to give us the opportunity to put right our failings.

"I am disappointed not to be able to see this journey through to the end.

"I congratulate Beate and her team for their commitment and focused work that has brought us to this point. I leave knowing that the service is in safe hands."

Local Democracy Reporting Service