Ofsted’s chief inspector has called for all professionals involved in child protection to “take stock” of their practice after finding that many are failing to learn from the worst abuse cases.
In her first annual report, Christine Gilbert said many vulnerable children were being let down by the system. She was particularly concerned about the quality of serious case reviews.
Of 92 reviews evaluated since April last year, 38 were judged to be inadequate, according to an Ofsted survey cited in the report.
The inspectorate also criticised long delays in producing review findings, which “severely restricted” the potential to learn from them. Although these should be completed within four months of the decision to carry one out, Gilbert said one review had taken four years. The findings of recent reviews did not always lead to continuous improvement, the report said.
There were also “varying” interpretations of the Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance by local safeguarding children boards. Some areas had not carried out serious case reviews where there had been incidents or deaths.
The findings will be included in a seperate Ofsted report on SCRs, expected to be published within the next fortnight.
On other aspects of children’s services, two-thirds of children’s homes, adoption and fostering agencies and residential schools were good or outstanding, the inspectorate found. But Gilbert said it was a “cause of concern” that 8% were judged to be inadequate.
No room for complacency
Councils were also found to pay “inconsistent” attention and resources to monitoring private fostering arrangements.
Overall, Gilbert said too many children and young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, were recieving “patently inadequate” services from children’s social care, schools and further education.
Publishing the report today, Gilbert said the recent tragic events in Haringey and Manchester showed “there is absolutely no room for complacency” in safeguarding children.
“Everyone involved in child protection in any way must take stock of the role they play and consider how they can improve the system,” she said.
Gilbert said that the inspectorate itself needed to be “more astute in picking up local concerns”. Ofsted was among three inspectorates sent into Haringey last week by children’s secretary Ed Balls following the verdicts in the Baby P case and is due to report by 1 December.
Gilbert said changes to the inspection regime now under consultation would make improvements. The changes include annual visits to authorities to monitor safeguarding.
The findings follow Ed Balls’ pledge that safeguarding would be made a priority for legislation to strengthen children’s trusts. Balls has also asked Lord Laming to draw on the current government reviews of serious case reviews and local safeguarding children boards for his child protection inquiry after the death of Baby P.