STAFF sickness in a ‘significant workforce crisis’ has been highlighted in Barnsley Council’s care leavers’ service following an Ofsted inspection.

Following a focused visit to the council’s services for care leavers on January 25 and 26, Ofsted labelled five key areas where the service needs to improve.

Focused visits are part of the ILACS (Inspecting Local Authority Children’s Services) framework, but unlike a full ILACS, they focus on one particular area and are not graded inspections.

The council currently support around 160 young care leavers - someone between 16 and 25 that has previously been in the local authority’s care.

The findings of the review have been used to agree service improvement priorities initially for 12 months and identify any additional short term and longer-term resource requirements.

The report, by inspector Claire Beckingham, said: “Most care leavers are not able to form positive and trusting relationships with their personal advisers (PAs) early enough because they are not allocated until just before or after the young person’s 18th birthday.

“As a result, workers are not spending enough time building strong relationships with young people and helping them to understand their rights and entitlements to enable a seamless transition into adulthood.

“Staff sickness and high caseloads compound these issues.”

The report wasn’t completely negative, though, as a number of positives were found within the service.

The council reviewed its services last year, with cabinet approving vast funding to support the sector as a whole - with the grim story generally the same nationally.

A total of £6.5m of one-off investment was approved, as was £2.5m in recurrent funding to support the delivery of a development plan.

Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, added: “We’re determined more than ever to make sure that our children’s services are strong, can protect our children and young people, and can withstand the challenges we face as a society and as an organisation.

“We’re so proud of the work that our employees do, showing such commitment to all Barnsley children and families.

“They’re passionate and work incredibly hard against ever-increasing national challenges such as a significant workforce crisis, a slow recovery from a global pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis which is meaning many more people are parenting in adverse circumstances.

“This along with increased demand and caseload levels is making it difficult for us to do quality work with our children and families.

“We already knew what our challenges were, and it’s reassuring that their report highlights the same challenges and key findings as we did in our own internal review.”