22 November 2023
The journey to improve children’s social care and the outcomes for our children across Northamptonshire continues to make encouraging progress, with more positive feedback from Ofsted inspectors during their latest visit.
Last month Ofsted carried out a focused visit to the ‘Front door’ services within countywide children’s services – this is where all safeguarding referrals are received and reviewed to consider the level of need and urgency, ensuring children and families get the support that they need.
In the first focused visit since the full Ofsted inspection in autumn last year inspectors have continued to see ongoing improvement, reflecting the closer working between Northamptonshire Children’s Trust and North and West Northamptonshire Councils as they prioritise improving outcomes for children.
In a findings letter published on Ofsted’s website today (Wednesday, 22 November) inspectors said, ‘the positive culture alongside a successful workforce strategy, has resulted in the front door workforce being more stable than it has been in years.’
Inspectors added that staff having a manageable workload meant that ‘social workers in the Duty and Assessment Teams can build positive relationships with children’ and ‘many skilfully do this’. They also said: ‘Collaborative, strengths-based social work practice is having a positive impact for many families.’
Leadership was also highlighted as a strength, with Ofsted saying senior leaders have ‘maintained a firm focus on improvement through external reviews, quality assurance processes and a realistic improvement plan.’
They added: ‘Leaders know their front door service well. They understand the service’s strengths, in particular, an increasingly stable workforce and improvements in the quality of social work interventions and assessments.’
Since the inception of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust three years ago, a positive change in culture has been noted throughout Ofsted inspections. In this latest visit, inspectors found ‘social workers across front door services are very positive about working for NCT’, describing a supportive, strengths-based culture’. They added that ‘staff are motivated, and, like their leaders, they are committed to improving the lives of children in Northamptonshire.’
Ofsted inspectors also noted there were still improvements to be made but that leaders were acutely aware of addressing these issues, such as improving consistency across the partnership in decision making, further work around continuing to improve initial responses to children at risk of exploitation and who go missing, further development of early help provision and improving current IT systems. Actions to address these areas are already under way.
We are very pleased that Ofsted continue to see the improvements that we are making with our partners.Julian Wooster, Chair of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust
Critical to the journey are our valuable workforce and alongside a strong stable leadership team, they are committed to improving the lives of children in Northamptonshire.
We welcome the commitment and support that we receive from North and West Northamptonshire Councils and collaboratively we can achieve the best possible outcomes for children, young people and families in the county.
The councils and Trust are committed to working closely together on the positive journey of improvement whilst tackling significant challenges, also facing children’s services nationally.
Among the national factors contributing to the challenges in Northants is the increase in the number of children and young people in care, high inflation driving up placement costs and a shortage of suitable placements due to a rise in the number of children with complex needs.
The Councils and NCT are working together to find solutions whilst also continuing to improve the service in line with Ofsted recommendations.
One example of this is the procurement and implementation of a new case management for the fostering service which was an Ofsted recommendation- this makes it easier to view the progress and outcomes for children supported by the service. The councils are supporting the Trust to further improve current IT systems as recommended in this latest inspection and the process for buying for this is already underway.
Another key initiative - the Circle 2 Success project (Valuing care) – is beginning to reap benefits for children and young people in care. It involves working closely with social workers and practitioners, spending time assessing and identifying children who with support could step down from a high-cost residential placement to a foster placement or return home. This work prioritises improving outcomes by considering the individual needs of every child and young person and ensuring they are safe and supported whilst also supporting our financial position by ensuring placements represent good value.
We are committed to improving the lives of children in North Northamptonshire and therefore committed to supporting Northamptonshire Children’s Trust (NCT) to continue their positive journey of improvement.Cllr Scott Edwards, Executive member for Children, Families, Education and Skills
Improving the life chances of our children and young people and ensuring they receive the best support and opportunities to help them thrive is a top priority for both us and our Children’s Trust.Cllr Fiona Baker, Cabinet Member for Children, Families, Education and Skills at West Northants Council
Our collaborative progress on this journey has been significant and we continue to move upwards in a positive direction. The implementation of the new case management system and recent focused visit to the Front Door is a great example of this, highlighting some strong areas of practice, helping us to achieve a safe and effective Front Door.
Despite our challenges, there is lots of good work underway. There is no quick fix, but the work happening is innovative and with our strong workforce, can make a difference.
Read the reports: