Concerns ‘not enough resource’ for early help for vulnerable children in Nottingham

Loxley House, as seen from Carrington Street
Loxley House, as seen from Carrington Street
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

The former leader of Nottingham City Council says he fears there is now “not enough resource” to intervene early in helping vulnerable children in the city.

As part of ongoing improvement work to children’s services, the council says it is focusing on early help to avoid more complex issues further down the line and reduce the number of people presenting at the front door.

Ofsted inspectors gave the Labour-run authority’s services the lowest possible rating in 2022, because they were so poor some children had been left at risk of harm.

Progress is now being monitored by an improvement board, and Ofsted inspectors visit regularly to ensure critical changes are made.

Consultancy firm Newton Europe is also supporting the delivery of a transformation programme at a cost of £6.5m. An extra £2.4m is being spent on specialist resourcing.

Cllr Cheryl Barnard (Lab), executive member for children, young people and education, says Ofsted will be visiting again at the end of July and expects it will find issues relating to the number of people at the front door to the council’s children’s services.

“Our front door was last visited in February 2023 where inspectors noticed there had been some signs of improvement and some areas showing strong improvements, such as our response to children age 16 to 17 who present as homeless,” she said.

“We’re expecting inspectors to see that progress has been sustained and practice has been improving.

“We anticipate they will notice the consistency, timeliness and quality, and as well that consistency in applications of thresholds is not where we want it to be although it is much improved.

“We also note there are still too many contacts at our front door.”

Cllr Barnard says the council launched an early help strategy in November and established a steering group to help implement it.

As part of the strategy, she said schools would be used better to help in early interventions, with the council not being able to do so on its own amid financial challenges.

“We are in the process of recruiting an early help service manager, funded through Small Steps, Big Changes, to support the implementation of the strategy,” she added.

“We are ensuring families receive the right support, at the right time, at the appropriate stage and that will be key to reducing contacts at the front door.”

The Department for Education has also given Lincolnshire more funding to help provide improvement support to Nottingham over the next year.

However, Cllr David Mellen (Lab), the former leader of the council who was chairing the meeting, said he fears there is not enough resource for schools to adequately support the council.

“The reality for schools is that they are getting rid of staff who do those extra roles, getting rid of learning mentors or family support workers because budgets are such they are having to concentrate on the teaching staff, which is a backwards step in my view, because those people are important,” he said.

“But the reality is we haven’t got schools with people kicking about saying I haven’t got much to do, I will support these families.”

Cllr Barnard said schools have existing relationships with parents and staff will be equipped with appropriate advice to signpost parents to the relevant services.

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