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Counties make children's services progress but challenges remain

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Two county councils judged to have failing children’s social care services have made improvements but still face challenges, Ofsted has found.

During the fourth monitoring visit this month since Gloucestershire CC was given an ‘inadequate’ rating in March 2017, inspectors found “accelerated progress” after a permanent senior leadership team was established.

A letter sent by Ofsted to Gloucestershire said improvement plans were underpinned by “significant financial investment and additional resource” but warned there were areas of practice the council had not addressed, including a failure to see “children regularly and within timescales that reflect their circumstances and ensure their safety”.

Richard Boyles (Con), Gloucestershire’s cabinet member for children and young people, said the findings showed the council had “turned a corner”.

He added: “We are not complacent though; we know that there is more work to be done to make sure the improvements are consistent across children’s services.

“To go from inadequate to good usually takes 18 months to three years, so we’re realistic about what still needs to be done.”

Worcestershire CC underwent its sixth Ofsted monitoring visit earlier this month after being judged inadequate in November 2016.

Inspectors found a service restructure had improved management support for social workers and frontline practice.

The use of legal processes and care proceedings were deemed effective, ensuring plans are implemented when children are exposed to significant harm.

Improvements were said to have been achieved because of “more robust management oversight, good quality legal advice and effective case-tracking systems”.

However, inspectors found some children experienced “sustained poor parenting and concerning home environments for too long” because, for a small number, long-term chronic neglect is not responded to quickly enough “through use of public law outline and legal planning meetings”.

Andy Roberts (Con), cabinet member with responsibility for children and families, said: “We are developing a new edge of care service which will support our children and families to stay together.

“By investing more into preventing our children from coming into the care system, we can keep families together where it is safe to do so and improve the lives of our children and young people.”

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