CHILDREN’S services in Poole have been rated as ‘requiring improvement’ following an Ofsted inspection.

An in-depth inspection was carried out in September, which assessed aspects of the service including adoption, care leavers, and child protection.

When it was inspected, the borough was looking after 200 children – an increase from 190 in March.

More than 900 children were identified as being formally in need of a specialist children’s service.

Since the last inspection in 2011, when the service was rated ‘good’, Ofsted found a number of changes had been made to improve outcomes for children, including a new casework system, the creation of a multi-agency safeguarding hub, and the transfer of adoption services to a regional adoption agency.

However, in their latest report, inspectors said “despite these developments, outcomes for children across the service are inconsistent” and “weaknesses have emerged in services for children looked after and in need of help and protection”.

They said for older children, admission to care had been delayed occasionally due to a lack of suitable foster placements.

And, because of an insufficient number of local placements, seven out of 15 children arrested in the last six months have been held in police custody overnight.

However, inspectors identified the council’s staff as a “real strength” on which to sustain and build improvements to the service. They also highlighted that social workers see children regularly, build trusting relationships, undertake creative, child-centred direct work and listen to their concerns.

They found adoption services and support for care leavers were strong, and the council and police had significantly strengthened their response to the risk of child sexual exploitation.

Cllr Mike White, cabinet portfolio holder for children and young people, said: “The Ofsted inspectors identified many strengths within the services the council provides for children in Poole, especially for those who are most vulnerable and in need of our support and protection. It’s particularly pleasing that the inspectors recognised the great work of our social workers in listening to children when helping those families in need of our support.

“We are committed to improving outcomes for all children in the borough and will use the findings of this report to further raise the standard of our service.”

A separate review of the effectiveness of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for Bournemouth and Poole was conducted at the same time. Ofsted inspectors judged the LSCB to be ‘good’.

Sarah Elliott, independent chair of the Bournemouth and Poole LSCB, said: “I am pleased that Ofsted found the LSCB to be good and, in particular, the commitment of local partners, including Borough of Poole, to effective safeguarding arrangements.

“The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is of paramount importance and it is encouraging to note the many examples Ofsted identified of the LSCB holding partners to account to achieve this.”