Improvement is being made in Rotherham

Published Wednesday, 29th June 2016
Improvement in social care services
Improvement in social care services

Rotherham Council's children's social care services are improving.

Rotherham is turning a corner in terms of improving children’s social care services, but more still needs to be done, a new report shows.

In October 2014 Ofsted inspectors failed the council, giving its children and young people’s services an inadequate rating.

But in recent monitoring visits inspectors have commended the Council, saying they are now on the right path in terms of addressing past failings, showing signs things are clearly getting better.

The work done so far has been noted and in particular around the improvements in dealing with child sexual exploitation (CSE).

There is evidence of significant learning arising from the review of high profile cases in Rotherham.

“What started as reactive approaches to children suffering from CSE has developed into proactive, sensitive and robust investigative practice between police and social care,” said inspectors in a letter to the Council, who added considerable effort was being made to identify children and young people at risk of CSE.

Management structures have also been improved and that’s been noted by Ofsted inspectors, who say: “The thread of high level of motivation, clear direction of travel and determined challenge was evident.”

On top of this the Council is now seeing a rapid response rate of 98 per cent in dealing with referrals to social workers, while the number of outstanding cases for assessment has reduced from 313 to zero.

In the past there were poor performance rates in terms of dental assessments for children in care but following a concentrated effort this has massively improved - from just over 58 per cent being assessed to 95 per cent in under a year.

Social work assessments are being completed within the agreed timeframe; children in need plans have improved significantly and up to date child protection plans are also 100 per cent complete.

And children leaving care with plans to help keep them on the right track have shot up from just 20 per cent having them last year to 97.5 per cent today, all of which is reported in the Council’s Children and Young People’s Services year end performance report.

Ian Thomas, Strategic Director of Children’s Services at Rotherham Council said: “This all shows we are starting to get on top of the difficult hand we were given and it is of course reassuring to know the work we are doing has been recognised officially as being on the right track. I am glad the inspectors have faith in the work we are doing to change things for the better, as there has been significant investment and changes made to improve children’s social care. However, although this is welcome news, we are fully aware we still have a long way to go to deliver a service which meets all the expectations that we have for Rotherham, but we want to reassure people we are on course to deliver on our ambitious plans.”

In terms of further change, the Council still needs to cut the number of unnecessary formal child protection investigations, which are still high and are subject to an intense review. The re-referral rate to social care is still higher than other similar local authorities, but is declining. Plans are also in place to tackle the number of times looked after children have to change placements, as this is still too high. And more also needs to be done to improve the educational progress of children in care.

Rotherham Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Gordon Watson, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services added: “It is of course encouraging that inspectors are telling us that we are moving in the right direction and services for children and young people are starting to improve.

“We have had a complete change of senior leadership across the council and the directorate, and invested in our committed front line staff which is helping us to improve outcomes for children and young people.

“However, we are aware there is still much to do and we will never be complacent. Improving our services, especially the consistency of good quality casework, continues to be our number one priority.”

Rotherham’s Children’s Commissioner Patricia Bradwell is recommended to receive the Children and Young People’s Services year end performance report along with the Ofsted improvement letter at the Cabinet and Commissioner Decision Making meeting on July 11.