SHROPSHIRE Council will be ordered to improve after an inspection revealed “serious and widespread systemic failings” with some of its services for vulnerable children.

An Ofsted inspection report published on January 12 said that there had been a “deterioration in the quality of social work practice for those children subject to child protection plans” which left children “at risk of inadequate protection and significant harm”.

The findings come after a visit from Ofsted in November, where inspectors looked at the local authority’s arrangements for children subject to a child protection plan, intended to safeguard those identified as being at risk of serious harm.

Inspectors criticised the high turnover of management staff and an over-reliance on agency workers, which resulted in frequent changes of social workers for some. Inspectors say this has led to “inconsistent and ineffective management oversight” of plans to support children.

They added that the council needed to ensure a better quality assurance process for its child protection plans which it says is “insufficient to meet demand”, and ensure processes were better followed by social workers.

“Too many social workers and managers fail to ensure that child protection processes are followed to investigate and manage escalating risks to children," the report said. 

"There is a lack of systematic management oversight of frontline practice. This means that children are exposed to the risk of harm for extended periods without proactive action being taken when risks increase.”

The report said the council's senior leadership team had acknowledged the shortfalls and expressed a commitment to improve, but that improvement was “too slow”.

Councillor Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Cabinet Member for Children and Education said the council had acknowledged the “difficult issues” raised in the findings, and was committed to ensuring the best outcomes for Shropshire children.

She said the council had already identified many of the issues raised and is working hard to address these, including by launching a recruitment drive for 20 new social care roles.

She said a draft plan has been sent to Ofsted and that the council will continue to work on its action plan, as it had been "for some time" before the inspection.

“The Ofsted visit focused on only one part of a much bigger service, and it also highlighted many areas of good practice here. There is no rating following this and we remain ‘Good’ as stated following our initial inspection in 2022.”