Children's services in Northamptonshire are continuing to improve despite the recent challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Today Ofsted have published the findings from a monitoring visit to the county that took place in late February this year.
This is the third visit since children's services were judged inadequate in June 2019 and the first since the formation of Northamptonshire Children's Trust (NCT) on November 1, 2020.
In a letter to Northamptonshire County Council, Ofsted said that inspectors had found that progress is gathering momentum following the transfer of children's social care services into NCT, which has continued to build on the positive changes that were already taking place, though there were still some areas that required improvement.
Ofsted commented that workforce stability was improving and the number of caseloads social workers had was steadily reducing.
The comprehensive improvement plan to drive change was also noted and it was also recognised that the majority of children in care lived in well-matched placements. In addition the inspirational children in care council was recognised for its work to relentlessly participate in designing service improvements alongside senior leaders.
Other positives included children in care benefitting from having time with their families promoted and prioritised with social workers carrying out well-balanced COVID-19 risk assessments.
Work to help unaccompanied asylum-seeking children establish contact with their families and prompt multi-agency responses to track children that go missing from care were also singled out for praise.
Cllr Fiona Baker, county council cabinet member for Children, Families and Education, said:
Our children are our future and making sure that every child in the county has the best start in life is one of the most important things that we can do as a society.
The past 12 months has been extremely challenging for everyone and I am delighted that children's services in the county are continuing to improve despite being in these very difficult times.
Northamptonshire Children's Trust is carrying on the good work that has already started and now we have a team in place that is committed to driving the change which is necessary.
Areas of improvement have been noted but these are consistent with elements we considered needed addressing and plans are in place to make changes.
Real progress is being made at all levels and I'm confident that this will continue."
Despite the progress Ofsted noted that a few children still come into care too late or in an emergency and that finding suitable placements for those children remained a challenge.
And while social worker caseloads are steadily reducing, some children in care still have too many changes of social worker.
Work is continuing to improve children's services and attracting more highly effective social workers to the county is seen as being the cornerstone of sustainable change.
As such Northamptonshire Children's Trust will be launching a refreshed recruitment campaign to attract new staff today
Julian Wooster, Chair of Northamptonshire Children's Trust said:
I'm pleased that Ofsted have noted that Northamptonshire Children's Trust is continuing to build on what has already been achieved through the good work which has taken place in the county to date.
The Trust is committed to improving the lives of all children in the county and I am determined that we do as much as we can to deliver the best possible services with the best possible people. Colin Foster, our Chief Executive, will personally contact every single person who applies to be a social worker with Northamptonshire Children's Trust.