Fears Ofsted inspection of Wakefield Council's children's services has come too soon for improvements to show

Beate Wagner
Beate Wagner

The head of children’s services in Wakefield, where Ofsted found vulnerable children were being left at risk of harm, fears the council has not had enough time to put improvements in place before being visited again by the watchdog.

A full inspection of children’s services began at Wakefield Council on Monday, four months after Ofsted found “significant weaknesses” in children’s social care in the district.

But at a meeting yesterday, Beate Wagner, the council’s new corporate director for children and young people, who was appointed in March, said the authority had hoped to have more time to make a positive impact.

She told members of the authority’s children and young people’s overview and scrutiny committee that she did not think Ofsted would not be interested in improvement action plans.

“They will want to see if the experience of children has changed”, she said. “I always welcome feedback but it does take time for plans to be felt by children and social workers.”

Hinting that there was concern in the authority about the inspection’s outcome, she said: “We fear that it is very early in the cycle of our improvement process but we are very much welcoming them (Ofsted) as we will learn from whatever message they can give us.”

The last full inspection of the authority’s children’s services took place in July 2016, when provision was deemed to ‘require improvement’.

In February, inspectors completed a ‘focused visit’, looking at children’s social care referrals in the district.

They found there were delays in allocating cases and seeing and assessing children at risk, and said social workers with high case loads did not have the capacity to meet the needs of children and families.

Ms Wagner said: “Clearly, very significant issues were raised that we have taken extremely seriously.”

She added: “The intention is to make very rapid improvements within six months to put those things right that need the most urgent attention, but at the same time start to develop our more medium term, more ambitious plan about what we want children’s services to be like for Wakefield.”

The scrutiny committee was presented with the authority’s improvement plan, which included pledges to increase the number of its social workers, ensure all children’s social care cases are allocated and make sure no young person leaving care is placed in B&B accommodation.

It also heard that East Riding of Yorkshire Council, North Yorkshire County Council and North Lincolnshire Council had committed to work with the authority to support improvements.

Ms Wagner said: "The East Riding of Yorkshire Council is providing auditing support and mentoring to colleagues to develop good practice. North Lincolnshire Council is providing support to simplify pathways for people accessing our services, and we’re working with North Yorkshire County Council to strengthen our restorative approach in services.

The results from the latest inspection are expected to be published next month.