An Ofsted report into the struggling Children's Services department in Somerset has found there was a "corporate failure to keep children safe".
Inspectors said the continual churn in the senior leadership team over the past ten years - including eight different Directors - stopped the development of the service, severely restricted the local authority's progress, and as a consequence, is seriously affecting the quality of services to children and families.
But they found since new bosses came into the council last year things have started to improve.
The report found that:
- Services to protect children at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) are underdeveloped.
- The scale and prevalence of CSE are not understood.
- Despite setting up an Improvement Board there was a lack of rapid and purposeful response to the findings from previous Ofsted inspections.
- The council was using a high number of locum staff to cover managerial and social work posts.
- Partners are not fully committed or contributing effectively to the safety and protection of children and families.
- Thresholds for children’s social care are set too high.
Inspectors also uncovered staff with high caseloads, which mean children were not seen often enough and their cases closed too soon.
The report did highlight the Service's strengths.
- Social workers work hard and have remained resilient and determined to improve outcomes for children and families
- Social work practice focuses on the needs of children and is supported by clear management oversight
- The current senior leadership team know what needs to be done
- Measurable improvements have been made in assessing the health needs for looked after children.