Norfolk children’s services boss hopes better outlook will help recruitment

Matt Dunkley, the interim director of Norfolk County Council's children's services department. Pic:

Matt Dunkley, the interim director of Norfolk County Council's children's services department. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

A more positive report by watchdogs into the state of Norfolk County Council's children's services could help to tackle recruitment struggles, the department's boss has said.

The department was rated as 'inadequate' by Ofsted in 2013 and 2015 and came in for further criticism when watchdogs returned last November.

However, a team of inspectors returned at the start of March and their latest monitoring letter reported there had been areas of significant improvement.Watchdogs still said the service that most children and young people received was 'not yet good enough'.

But they were positive about the 'decisive action' to speed up the pace of improvement and a clear sense of purpose and direction under a 'new, more confident and visible senior management team'.

However, watchdogs also said the recruitment and retention of frontline managers continued to be a challenge.

Inspectors said, during their monitoring visit to Great Yarmouth, that two of the three team managers in the assessment and family intervention teams had been in the post for less than six weeks.

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Gaps in supervision of social workers were also identified as an issue by Ofsted.

Matt Dunkley, interim director of the department, said: 'We still have difficulty with recruiting experienced professionals to full-time key roles.'

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He said the authority had recruited some of the agency workers in the department, to make them permanent employees.

And he said the Norfolk Social Care Academy had led to 28 newly-qualified social workers joining the council, with another tranche due to start in September.

He said that was 'good news' but acknowledged that needed to be complemented with experienced social workers.

He said: 'We are looking at every avenue as to how we can do that.

'As the news starts to get better, it will make recruitment easier.'

He said a new system for supervision training was about to be launched to address Ofsted's criticism of that.

It is not yet known when Ofsted will return for a full inspection of the department, although another monitoring visit is due in June.

The EDP is, through our Fighting For Their Futures investigation, scrutinising services for the county's children.

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