By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
The director responsible for Nottingham City Council’s children’s services said the inadequate rating is ‘disappointing’ for the authority.
On September 5 an Ofsted report downgraded the department’s rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘inadequate’ and said “serious failures” were putting young people at risk.
The Corporate Director for People Services at the authority – which includes children’s social care – said improvements were being made.
During the inspection in July 2022, Ofsted found the service, which can look after as many as 650 young people at a time, left some children at “continued risk of harm” when they are first in need of support.
The watchdog published its findings after an inspection in July this year.
Inspectors said the council’s multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) had “significant, widespread and systemic” weaknesses, leaving city children without enough protection and waiting up to six weeks to meet a social worker.
They also found management was not providing social workers with direction or overseeing the length of time children were processed.
Nottingham City Council discussed the report at its Executive Board meeting on September 20.
The director responsible for children’s social care said the report was “clearly disappointing”.
Catherine Underwood, Corporate Director for People Services, said: “The findings of this inspection are clearly disappointing, however we recognise and accept the findings and they will support us driving forward as a service.
“The report notes the improvements we have been able to make as well.
“I would also note the commitment and dedication of the staff in our children’s services.”
Two councillors – the leader and the portfolio holder responsible for children’s services – spoke about the inadequate report.
Councillor Cheryl Barnard (Lab), portfolio holder for children, young people and schools, apologised earlier this month.
She said: “Whilst there’s been some progress some other areas have deteriorated.
“This means children in Nottingham currently do not get consistently good service and some children are not getting the right help at the right time.
“There was recognition of the challenging context over the last 18 months, the commitments of the Chief Executive and elected members and the additional investment to date on improvement.
“Steps being taken include increased service management capacity and recruiting an additional eight social workers.
“We have introduced a recruitment and retention package to stabilise our workforce.
“Our children’s integrated service is committed to the best possible services for our children and young people.”
She said the council will be visited again for a full inspection in February or March next year.
Councillor David Mellen (Lab), Leader of Nottingham City Council, added: “Clearly it’s good to see the inspectors noticed elements of good practice across our services and the commitment of staff.
“But the overall grading is one that we would want to improve.
“It’s good to hear that journey has already started and the commitment of the department is there too.
“It’s important as a council we all work towards improvement.
“We all have corporate parenting responsibility for those who are in our care.”
Ofsted recommended the council should invest in more social workers to support children and young people – an action the authority has already taken.
It also asked for more places to be created for children who need to come into care, for greater support for people aged 21 and over who leave the service and for increased support for homeless young people.
Inspectors also acknowledged that some progress had been made including a “clear process” in place when intervention was needed.
They added that children were “well-supported” and developing “strong relationships” once they are allocated a social worker.
Councillor Andrew Rule (Con) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service following the meeting: “I’d be minded to probe the portfolio holder at the next meeting for where we go from here and what the plan is to improve standards.
“We’d all aspire to have an outstanding rating given how important it is.
“I think part of the issue is we need to be working on avoiding kids going into care in the first place.”
The authority will now draw up an action plan and will have between four and six monitoring visits from the watchdog in the next 18 months.
This will be followed by a full inspection.
An improvement board, chaired by an independent official appointed by the Department for Education, will monitor the authority against its improvement plan.