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A new report into child protection services in Kent has found things have improved significantly since a damning inspection by Ofsted two and a half years ago but there is still room for improvement.
Following an unannounced visit in October 2010, inspectors labelled safeguarding children's services at Kent County Council as 'inadequate' and said vulnerable children were being failed and left at risk of significant harm.
But after another visit at the end of last year, they noted KCC had worked hard and "consistently given a high level of strategic priority to protecting and improving services to Kent's most vulnerable children".
They judged KCC's child protection across four areas - quality of practice, effectiveness of help and early support, leadership and governance and overall effectiveness, and found all to be 'adequate', which is defined as 'a service that is doing what is required to keep children and young people safe'.
Key improvements recognised by Ofsted include:
" The new Central Referral Unit, which brings several agencies together, had improved the way it responds to children referred with child protection concerns
" Early intervention services have improved
" Huge efforts have gone into improving staff levels
" Social worker caseloads have been reduced to 'manageable' levels
" There are clear thresholds for referral of children and the right children are getting the right services
" Identification of children at risk has improved
" Timelines of initial and core assessments of children have improved
" Social workers have good morale and feel safer working at KCC than before
" Leadership at the council has been praised for the high level of priority it has given to improving services for Kent's vulnerable children.
Areas still needing work were highlighted as getting the right help for children who are not at risk but who need extra help and more detailed and measurable plans are required for children in need.
Inspectors also said it was important to make sure social workers do not stop help for children too early and that managers need to get better at checking the quality of work done by staff and give them regular feedback.
KCC welcomes all the findings of the report and acknowledges much more work needs to be done.
Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, said: "We are enormously indebted to our staff for all of the hard work which has gone into making significant improvements to our safeguarding children's services.
"Despite our significant achievements in raising standards, we are not complacent and recognise more work needs to be done."