Essex: Service to protect children from abuse is improving
AN early report has offered fresh hope that a failing service to look after children and young people in Essex has turned a corner.
For three years running Essex County Council’s children’s services have been rated as among the worst in the country by the government watchdog Ofsted.
But an unannounced inspection has revealed that authority’s efforts to keep thousands of youngsters safe from paedophiles, abuse and neglect are improving.
Ofsted, the government office responsible for inspecting and assessing children’s services, published its initial findings on Friday.
The report will contribute to the annual review of the council’s children’s services, for which Ofsted will award a rating later this year.
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In its last review, published in December, the authority scored the lowest possible grade and was judged to be “inadequate”.
During the unannounced inspection, carried out on March 16 and 17, inspectors looked at a range of evidence, including the quality of work carried out by social workers and other staff to reduce child abuse and neglect.
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The report stated that new policies put in place by the council had “assisted staff to raise standards from a low base and have resulted in improvements in the quality of services delivered to children and families.”
It added that most referrals to social care were “appropriate” and that “children at risk of immediate harm are protected by Section 47 enquiries which are timely, undertaken by suitably qualified and experienced social workers and supported by effective management decisions.”
Sarah Candy, Essex County Councillor for children’s services said: “I am pleased the findings of the Ofsted inspection show that we have now turned the corner in our improvement journey and are delivering our promise to improve our quality of social work practice.
“Our intention was always to keep focused and ensure that we make significant and appropriate changes, building on the positive work occurring within the service area. This work will continue until we are satisfied we are delivering the best possible service for our Essex children.”
The inspectors found that there were no priority actions for the authority to address and that the service has raised its standards, however it highlighted a number of areas for improvement.
The report said that the council’s “early intervention services are at an early stage of development and have yet to show impact”.
It added: “Too many assessments lack sufficient analysis and this results in recommendations that are not suitably based on clear evidence.
And: “The impact of children’s views on the analysis of core assessments is not always evident, and parents and carers are not consistently provided with a copy of the assessment.
The unannounced inspection report can be viewed at www.ofsted.gov.uk.