Wokingham’s inadequate children’s services is improving
Most vulnerable children in Wokingham are being dealt with by a social worker within seven days, under a drive to improve serious issues with children’s services.
Wokingham Borough Council’s improvement board, which is spearheading work to improve care for vulnerable children, has produced a plan to inject new life into the ailing child protection department.
This has now been approved by Ed Balls, the minister for children, schools and families, and contains “stretching targets”.
The news comes as the department announces new figures showing more than 80 per cent of referrals of children for social services are now dealt with within seven days, which is above target.
The department has faced a major overhaul after an “inadequate” judgement in a Joint Area Review by Ofsted published earlier this year.
But the department has since received several boosts in its bid to improve, with a new management team appointed and plans to make social work in Wokingham more attractive and better paid.
Cheryl Miller CBE, who is the independent chairman of the improvement board, said: “Certainly a lot has been happening in Wokingham is the last few months and it looks like firm foundations are being put in place on which to build successful children’s services capable of protecting vulnerable children and keeping them safe.
“Both officers and elected members at the council are attaching high importance and considerable energy to addressing the challenges they face.”
Bursaries and short-term assistance with accommodation could help attract more social workers to the council, which has also increased the pay it offers so it can compete with other councils in the job market.
A new referral and assessment team was also launched at the end of July to deal with all new referrals of children needing support from social services. It aims to improve communication between the council, partner agencies and the families involved.
More good news has come in the form of an inspection report by the HM Inspectorate of Probation on the council’s youth offending service, which found it was making good progress.
The inspection report said findings were “encouraging and that it was gratifying to be able to acknowledge the good progress made by Wokingham”.
Even more appointments to the senior leadership team will now join Andy Couldrick, the new children’s services general manager, who begins on Monday.
In October Amanda Smith from Oxfordshire County Council begins as head of early intervention and integrations.
Rachael Wardell, who works for Ofsted, will also begin in October as head of children’s services strategy and partnerships and there will be a new head of safeguarding and social care.
Mr Couldrick said: “Whilst over the past few months a number of improvements have been made to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, we are all acutely aware that we face a number of challenges.
“The council has a dedicated workforce that is determined to work with me and my senior leadership team to move us in the right direction to safeguard our children and young people.”
Councillor Rob Stanton, executive member for children’s services, said: “Progress is being made and extra resources have been put into children’s services social care and I’m confident that we’re on the right track.
“We are working very hard to ensure that more improvements are made to these vital services that protect our vulnerable children and young people.”