Ofsted report on Torbay children's service 'step in right direction'
NO children or young children in Torbay were inadequately protected or at risk of significant harm in March, Government inspectors have found.
A ten-day unannounced inspection by Ofsted inspectors of the child protection services at Torbay Council has declared they are 'adequate' overall.
This is an improvement since September, 2010, when a similar inspection found that the safeguarding of vulnerable children was 'inadequate'.
The service has been in special measures since with monthly checks by the Department of Education.
Torbay will now ask to be removed from intervention and hopes it will be lifted in the summer when the current improvement notice expires.
When the inspectors were in the Bay talking to children's services and partner organisations, such as health and the police in February and March, they looked through around 100 cases.
At the time of the inspection, 199 children were under child protection plans and social care teams were supporting 1,003 children and young people.
The inspectors left a list of further 18 improvements they wish to see completed in six months' time.
Cllr Chris Lewis, executive member for children's services, and director Richard Williams said the one issue which had made the biggest difference had been the renewed efforts to recruit permanent social workers rather than using agency staff.
This was not only less expensive but provided the continuity and stability needed both by families and for improving management practices.
At one stage, the authority had a 46 per cent vacancy rate. It is hoped this will be reduced to just three vacancies if the latest appointments are confirmed in the next few weeks.
Mr Williams, said: "I am under no illusion that there is still much to do. We are determined to build on our good work and move from an 'adequate' to a 'good' rating by the next inspection."
He added: "I would like to congratulate staff for their hard work and determination to improve the quality of child protection in Torbay. More than two years ago we faced a huge challenge to turn things around and it is clear from the inspection report that we have made lots of progress since then.
"By working together and putting in place a long-term and sustainable structure through the children's partnership improvement plan, we are making the changes needed to give children, young people and their families the early intervention and protection they need."
He said he did not expect there to be any issues about the service coming out of special measures but formal procedures had to be followed.
Cllr Lewis, who is relinquishing the post in May, said: "We are moving in the right direction, but we have always said that we are committed to long term improvements — not a quick fix.
"It is important that we keep the momentum going, become more consistent and continue to improve our services to keep Torbay's children and young people safe from neglect, abuse and harm. An extensive programme of cross partnership work is being carried out to ensure that children's services in Torbay improve and it is reassuring that our progress has been recognised by Ofsted.
"I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the improvement of our safeguarding services."