The long-awaited report by Ofsted into children’s services in Norfolk has again deemed that it is inadequate.
The watchdog declares that there “are widespread or serious failures that mean the welfare of looked after children is not safeguarded and promoted”.
Ofsted said Norfolk County Council has failed to improve significantly its care of looked-after children after being rated inadequate in June 2013.
The report said the children’s services department had “lost touch” with 190 children who left its care and cannot be sure that they are safe, Of those, 26 were vulnerable 16- to 17-year-olds.
County Hall immediately issued a rebuttal to many of the findings in the report.
It said it welcomed the view of inspectors that “significant improvements” had been made but has issued a formal complaint about many of the findings, feeling it too harsh.
James Joyce, Chair of Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services Committee, said: “There is much in the report that we welcome and agree with, which is why we can’t agree with its ultimate conclusion.
“But it is clear from the report that children are now much safer and better protected than they were two years ago. When we came into office in 2013, the task facing the department was phenomenal. We had a shortage of social workers, no early help service and more than a hundred unallocated child in need cases. We are now being praised for our innovation in recruitment and our efforts to develop projects that keep families together. We have made huge inroads but we want all services for Norfolk’s children to be good or outstanding.
“When we met with Ofsted last week they acknowledged that the draft report contained errors but these errors have not been corrected in the final published report.”
Among the points Ofsted highlighted after an inspection in July was that care and pathway plans are not good enough. Pathway plans were described as “poor” and record keeping about the progress made by young people and those in care had gaps.
Targets set for these children in the classroom were not challenging enough.
The report acknowledged that due to geographical considerations, “the recruitment of social workers remains a challenge”.
The release of the report comes on the day that councillors meet to discuss cutting another £16 million from the children’s services department budget.