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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils Investigation Report

D.5: External inspections

External inspections

26. Until 2013, fostering services were inspected independently of other children’s services and against national minimum standards set out in legislation.[1] Between 2004 and 2011, the Councils’ fostering services received broadly positive assessments from these external inspections.

26.1. CSCI’s inspection of the County in 2004[2] was positive. It found “clear lines of management” and the use of risk assessments to keep young people safe and minimise risk. A guide for children in placements, including a section on how to raise concerns, was “excellent”. The County kept a “centrally collated management system of numbers and outcomes of allegations of neglect or abuse of a child in foster care”.[3]Serious incidents and child protection issues had, where required, been notified to the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC). Foster carers found training to be “excellent”.

26.2. The City’s fostering service received a similarly positive report from the CSCI in 2005,[4] meeting all eight standards concerning the welfare of children in foster care. All foster carers had completed child protection training prior to approval.

26.3. In 2006, the County was found to have met the majority of the standards on which it was assessed.[5] Assessment and reviews of foster carers were completed to “a high standard” and there were increasing training opportunities (including on safeguarding and caring for abused children). However, recording of information by carers was “wholly inappropriate”. [6] The City was advised to ensure all foster carer placements had been adequately assessed and approved, and to provide better support to carers located outside Nottinghamshire.[7]

26.4. In 2008, the County’s service was rated ‘satisfactory’ by Ofsted, but with concerns raised about record keeping and record management. The fostering panel was now independent and there were risk assessments in relation to bedroom-sharing arrangements for young people who had been abused or had abused others, alongside “robust” initial risk assessments for all children placed with foster carers.[8] The City’s service was rated as ‘good’, with new policies on managing allegations, although central records relating to allegations and complaints did not contain sufficient detail. For example, dates of allegations and outcomes of investigations were not recorded.[9]

26.5. By 2011, the County’s fostering service had improved to ‘good’. Allegations were being taken seriously and placement planning, risk assessments and safe caring policies were ‘good’.[10] The City’s fostering service was also rated as ‘good’.[11]

27. Since 2013, Ofsted has inspected children’s services as a whole, rather than fostering services as a separate function.[12]

27.1. In 2014, the City was rated ‘requires improvement’ overall. Specific criticisms of its fostering service included insufficient information provided to foster carers about children being placed with them, and a need to ensure “there is sufficient technical knowledge and expertise” within its fostering and adoption service.[13]

27.2. The County’s 2015 inspection[14] found most children to be living in stable placements and cared for by skilled foster carers. The fostering panel was “effective”, with members receiving annual appraisals and performance development plans.

27.3. In November 2018, shortly after the conclusion of the Inquiry’s public hearings, the City was rated as ‘requires improvement’ across its children’s social care services.[15] In relation to fostering, Ofsted found that “A small group of very young children have been left vulnerable in unsuitable private fostering arrangements” with insufficient management oversight. Children’s needs were said generally to be met, but those with complex needs experienced too many moves before finding stability. Plans to increase the range of local foster carers were progressing well, but decisions on matching them with children were not well recorded. By contrast, foster carers were supported well and were assessed to be of a high quality. Carers valued their supervising social workers and the quality of training and support provided.

27.4. A 2019 inspection of the County was a ‘focused visit’ and therefore did not look at fostering services.[16]

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