CHILD social care services in Somerset are 'getting better' - but still require improvement to be considered 'good', say inspectors.

A full inspection of Somerset County Council’s Child Social Care services by Ofsted resulted in an improved rating of 'requires improvement to be good'.

This follows a rating of 'inadequate' in 2015.

One area – Adoption Services – was rated as ‘good’ and described by inspectors as “an area of considerable strength” where “social workers and managers know their children well’ and ‘family finding is swift and effective”.

However, all other areas assessed were rated as 'requiring improvement'.

The report makes clear that improvements have been inconsistent and highlights areas where further work is needed, including partnership working and outcomes for children looked after.

Leader of the council, David Fothergill, said he was pleased by the improvement.

“I am delighted we have taken this big step forward but we will not rest here," he said.

“We have the ambition for Somerset to be rated by Ofsted as not just ‘good’ but ultimately to be rated as ‘outstanding’.

“We have put a lot of resource and effort into this and these improvements are a tribute to our fantastic staff.

"Of course, safeguarding children isn’t just the council’s responsibility and we will be looking to continuing to improve the way that all the organisations in Somerset work together to achieve this.”

READ MORE: Children's services branded 'inadequate' by inspectors

Comments in the report summary included: "Since the last inspection in 2015, when Somerset children’s services were judged as inadequate overall, the local authority has made steady progress in improving the quality of services that children and young people receive.

"Senior leaders have worked effectively with an improvement partner, and they have created a culture of openness and willingness to learn that supports further improvement."

However, the report also said: "While no children were found to be at immediate risk of harm during this inspection, the quality of practice remains variable and managers do not always challenge poor practice.

"Children’s assessments and plans remain inconsistent, and do not adequately capture children’s cultural and identity needs.

"Social workers do not update assessments regularly enough."

Councillor Frances Nicholson, cabinet member for children and families, said: “Our staff have worked tirelessly to change, to be flexible and to reflect the leadership from the top of the organisation.

"It really is a team effort and I’m delighted on their behalf.

"There is a huge amount of comment and constructive criticism in this report and we will spend time going through it and getting things right.

"We are committed to improving our children’s services and we have the right staff and the right leaders to do exactly that."

The council said the report reflected improvements in children’s social care that have seen:

  • More than 160 permanent social workers appointed since the last inspection
  • A ground-breaking deal with the University of the West of England that has seen 71 graduate social workers employed at the Council.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • When children go missing, return home interviews should be timely and of better quality.
  • Ensuring there are enough senior managers to carry out the work needed.
  • Working better with partners to get positive outcomes for children.
  • Ensuring consistent use of tools for all children at risk of sexual exploitation.
  • Helping children gain access to advocacy support, help and guidance.

You can read the full report by clicking here