Birmingham council’s child protection services have been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, following an unannounced inspection.
The rating follows a disappointing inspection history for the troubled department, which was issued with a government improvement notice in February 2009 – following a number of high profile child deaths – and September 2010.
Despite progress in 2011, all four inspections following the first improvement notice uncovered concerns about the quality of the authority’s practice in protecting children.
Last month, inspectors found too many children were at risk of harm because the authority had failed, on too many occasions, to carry out prompt, robust assessments. The vast majority of children in need known to the department were found to have no child in need plan.
‘Progress too slow’
Although inspectors noted improvements, they found progress on a number of key issues had been too slow. These include the high rates of re-referrals, that children subject to child protection plans do not always receive statutory visits from social workers, and that too many children are subject to repeat child protection plans.
In some cases, decisions to remove children from initial plans were judged to be premature. Inspectors also found work to improve poor practice had been ineffective.
Council leader Sir Albert Bore described the report as “very distressing reading”. “Though some improvement has been recognised, it is simply not acceptable that services for children and families in our city continue to be poor,” he said.
Commitment to improve
Peter Duxbury, strategic director for children and family services, said he accepted the findings of the “extremely rigorous inspection” and welcomed inspectors’ acknowledgement that there had been some improvements.
“We know where we are and what needs to be done and it is my commitment that we will have seen significant improvements by this time next year,” he said.
The report made a number of recommendations for the council, including that:
- children subject to child protection plans receive statutory visits within appropriate timescale
- delays through lengthy periods of information-gathering and assessment are eradicated
- all managers are equipped to understand and challenge unacceptable practice at all levels.
In a statement, published today, the authority set out how it has met, and is working to meet, all of the watchdog’s recommendations.
Changes to children’s social care services that are registered and/or inspected by Ofsted