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Northamptonshire’s child protection services are inadequate, according to Ofsted

Council accepts the criticisms unreservedly

Ofsted's inspection of the child protection services in Northamptonshire has determined that the overall effectiveness of the arrangements to protect children is inadequate.

The report finds that children and young people in Northamptonshire are not effectively protected from harm. There are systemic weaknesses and inconsistent and ineffective practices that contribute to children and young people at risk of harm not consistently being recognised or helped.

Key partner agencies do not focus sufficiently on the potential risks faced by children and young people to ensure that further harm is prevented. Many services are process driven rather than focused on the needs of the child or young person. While a considerable number of children and young people are subject to child protection enquiries, too few have the risks they are subject to fully identified, or benefit from sufficiently robust or coordinated response.

As a consequence there is now a legacy of children and young people who have been exposed to chronic, and periodically acute, harmful experiences of which some are unlikely to have been either assessed or addressed.

The local authority says that it has drawn up The Children's Services Improvement Programme in response to Ofsted's criticisms.  Council chief executive Dr Paul Blantern, said:

"We had concerns about our performance as an organisation, which is why we actively sought an independent assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. We also had concerns about the effectiveness of the multi-agency arrangements in the county which the inspections have confirmed.

"By inviting Ofsted and other inspection agencies in to carry out a pilot inspection using their new methodolody, we were building on the improvement work which had seen the appointments of a new assistant director for safeguarding and a dedicated cabinet member for children's social care.

"We accept the findings unreservedly.

"There are two major themes emerging from the inspection process. The first is that we and our partners need to improve the way we identify and assess children's vulnerability so that we can reduce the risk of children and young people suffering harm or abuse.

"The second is that in we need to make sure we listen to and see things much more from the child's perspective. Children and young people are not being appropriately involved in existing processes and as a result, their feelings and experiences are too infrequently taken into account."

The council's improvement programme sets out the necessary action plans to ensure all the recommendations are carried out. The authority says that some immediate actions have already been taken in response to the inspectors' initial feedback.