Lead children’s councillor resigns over poor Ofsted rating

Sandwell’s cabinet member for children’s services, Bob Badham, has resigned after Ofsted rated the council’s services for safeguarding children as inadequate.

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Sandwell’s cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Bob Badham, has resigned after Ofsted rated the council’s services for safeguarding children as inadequate.

An inspection in February found failings in the overall effectiveness of help and protection, quality of practice, leadership and governance.

Badham said he was fully aware of the problems with the service and he took responsibility for the failures. However, he said he was proud of the fact that Sandwell had been the first council to take radical action to contract out the management of children’s services in order to improve performance.

“Ofsted inspections these days are a lot tougher and I have no doubt other local authorities will follow our lead.”

A statement from the council said a director of the council had also left her post by mutual consent. It is believed to be former social worker Helen Smith who was service director for children and families in the council.

Sandwell was first judged inadequate by Ofsted in 2009 but was thought to be turning a corner in February 2012 when it achieved an “adequate” rating.

To try to avoid slipping back Sandwell last year awarded a 30-month contract worth £1.15million to social care consultancy iMPOWER to run the department and bring in a new director of children’s services, Simon White, who still remains in place.

But the Ofsted report, published earlier this week, confirmed Sandwell’s children’s services have again been rated inadequate. Inspectors found “a significant challenge remains in ensuring the current safety of children and young people while long term plans take effect”.

Inspectors criticised Sandwell for what it called the “unacceptable practice” of prematurely ending individual child protection plans, with many closed in under three months.

Other criticisms included: child protection conferences were not fit for purpose, visits to protected children were infrequent, most children in need cases did not have a current protection plan and unqualified workers were carrying out visits to assess children’s safety.

Ofsted has given the council six months to “make sure all of the people who run child protection services are checking that they are all doing it properly and in the same way, and that they take action when things are going wrong”.

Sandwell has now contacted the Department for Education for emergency assistance in dealing with its failing child protection services.

Sandwell council’s leader, Darren Cooper, will take on the children’s services portfolio in the short-term while a new cabinet member is appointed at the council’s annual general meeting.

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