Vulnerable children in Norfolk 'put at risk', says report

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Vulnerable children have been put at risk by poor management at Norfolk County Council, says a watchdog report.

The Ofsted report, after an inspection in January, found the council's child protection was inadequate.

It said managers pressured staff to assess risks to children quickly, without considering all their needs.

Lisa Christensen, who runs the county children's services, said immediate action was being taken to improve its child protection work.

Among the criticisms, Ofsted said:

  • Risks to children were not always recognised and written down by social workers' managers.
  • Children's views were not considered properly at meetings to protect them.
  • Once concerns about children are identified, "too often there are significant delays in them getting the support, help and protection they need because social workers often have too much to do".

But the inspectors noted the background of financial cuts and praised the way foster care was managed and way social workers dealt with children missing from school.

'Improvement plan'

Ms Christensen, director of children's services, said: "This is not good enough for Norfolk children and families, and we are determined to do more, and faster to improve our service.

"Our prime concern is, and will always be, the protection, health and well being of Norfolk children and young people.

"Inspectors have given us some very clear messages about how we must improve our safeguarding service across the board and we will rise to the challenge they have set us."

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services, said: "We must now move forward and I will have very clear oversight of the formal improvement plan and working very hard with the director and the Department for Education to bring about the necessary improvements as quickly as possible."

Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary of UNISON at county hall, said social workers were facing increasing workloads and declining resources.

"Money is being taken out of frontline services, which we think could have been avoided," he said.

Mervyn Scutter, spokesman of child services for the main opposition party the Liberal Democrats, said: "The report is very concerning. We need someone to take a very firm grasp of this problem."

Sue Whitaker, Labour's spokesperson on the council for child services, said the report also highlighted good practice at the council and she felt this could be built on.

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