Council responds to latest Ofsted inspection of children’s services

17/07/2018, PR8845

Wakefield Council has pledged to put the needs of children at the heart of its children’s social care transformation after Ofsted judged the services to be inadequate.

A standard Ofsted inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services – which covers the whole range of services Wakefield Council provides for children and young people – took place over two weeks in June.

The Leader of Wakefield Council, Cllr Peter Box CBE, said: “This service has let down children and families of this district and that is completely unacceptable.

“I have been clear for several months that very serious issues need to be addressed, and quickly.

“The findings of this latest Ofsted inspection confirm much of what we already knew. It is clear that, for far too long, we had a system unable to support frontline social workers, too few managers to supervise and support, and not enough social workers to meet the needs of our children.

“This is now changing and our priority is to see this make a difference to our children and their families quickly.

“I can assure residents that Ofsted’s recommendations are being fully actioned and the Council will ensure that every resource possible will be put into transforming these services, putting children at the very heart of everything we do.”

This year has already seen major changes at the very top of children’s services. In March, Wakefield Council’s Chief Executive, Merran McRae, who joined the Council in June 2017, appointed Beate Wagner as the Corporate Director for Children and Young People. Ofsted has acknowledged that Ms Wagner is now embedded and has ‘quickly won the confidence of staff and external agencies’, and has ‘wasted no time in making new appointments’.

A new Service Director for Children’s Social Care, who was part of the team that took Rotherham from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ is due to join the Council on 7 August 2018.

In March, Cllr Peter Box brought in new political leadership to help support the transformation of the Children and Young People Service. Cllr Margaret Isherwood took on the role to give fresh political challenge and a renewed focus for improvement. Cllr Box also allocated £1 million to drive a transformation action plan and invested an extra £3.5 million into the service’s annual base budget.

Merran McRae, Chief Executive of Wakefield Council, said: “We are acutely aware of the many significant challenges we face and are absolutely ready and willing to learn and improve.

“We have immediately begun tackling the serious concerns about some children being at risk. A team of highly-experienced, external professionals have been recruited and are carrying out a rapid review of every child in our care. Urgent action will be taken if any child is identified as being at risk.

“In the last five months our children’s services have already seen some major changes. We already have more team managers and service managers on the ground. This management is absolutely critical to support social workers – a point clearly made by Ofsted, and we are also rapidly filling other vacancies whilst robustly challenging performance. We are also focussing on retaining our great social workers and recruiting more high quality social workers to join our teams.

“Going forward, there will be effective, extensive and intensive scrutiny. Elected members, from both parties, will now challenge and interrogate progress and improvement as we seek robust assurance that the actions being taken are delivering the right results.

“Bringing services up to the standard our children and families need and deserve is a challenge Wakefield Council is determined to deliver on.”

Wakefield Council’s new improvement plan will be closely monitored, both by the Leader and Chief Executive, and by the Department for Education (DfE). The DfE will assign a commissioner tasked with providing a diagnostic report and determining what happens next.

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