Child protection plans are ending too early, Ofsted warns Birmingham

Ofsted finds Birmingham children's services are improving but significant concerns remain about child protection plans

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Birmingham children’s services is improving but “significant concerns” remain about children being left at risk due to child protection plans ending too early, Ofsted reports.

A monitoring visit by the inspectorate found reduced caseloads and use of agency staff, which Ofsted said had improved the consistency and stability of relationships between social workers and families.

The average number of care proceedings a month in Birmingham was also found to have fallen significantly during this year, which Ofsted attributed to a more robust parenting assessment and support service.

Second child protection plans

But inspectors remained concerned about child protection plans ending early and the rising number of children winding up with a second child protection plan at the inadequate-rated local authority.

In November 2016 29% of child protection plans ended after three months but this has now risen to 37%.

The proportion of children who end up with a second child protection has gone up from 21.7% in 2016 to 24% compared to an average of 18.7% across England.

“More work needs to be done to ensure that plans end only when risk has clearly been reduced and when improvement can be sustained,” said inspectors in their monitoring visit report.

Lack of attendance

Ofsted was also critical of how school nurses, substance misuse workers and other professionals “too often” fail to attend child protection review conferences.

It said the chairs of review conferences were not doing enough to challenge these absences and in some cases were proceeding with the conference despite the necessary attendance.

“These weaknesses lead to decisions being made without appropriate information, at times, and without access to the skills and experiences of other professionals,” it warned.

Independent trust

Councillor Carl Rice, the cabinet member for children, families and schools at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is pleasing that Ofsted has again confirmed our steady progress; staff are working very hard to ensure that children and families most in need are helped and supported.

“As with previous monitoring reports, we know there is still more to do as we continue to embed good practice, but we are pleased that the commitment and enthusiasm of our social workers is once again recognised.”

Birmingham children’s services has been rated inadequate since 2009 and is due to be placed under the control of an independent children’s trust in April.

3 Responses to Child protection plans are ending too early, Ofsted warns Birmingham

  1. Theo Cropper January 22, 2018 at 3:09 pm #

    I agree with Ofsted report on Birmingham that ‘children are ‘being left at risk due to child protection plans ending too early’. Too often plans are closed or stepped down to Family Support requiring stepping back up within a short time. It begs the question whether Children’s Services have become more concerned with data, more of a tick box exercise and thereby creating a revolving door system putting our vulnerable children further at risk. Managers should ensure all assessments have a robust plan in place (some do) before they are signed off and child protection plans are closed or stepped down only if the criteria is met to do so. Workers are often put under much pressure by managers to close cases open for six months even when the worker and other professionals continue to express concerns. Children Services should stop the revolving door system and support children so they are safe, healthy, providing opportunities for them to achieve their full potential so they can succeed and contribute positively to society even if it takes more than six months as that is miniscule to the life time of a child.

  2. Socialis Laborator January 22, 2018 at 11:10 pm #

    Yep fully agree! To give Ofsted their due, I go to conference as a social worker working in Birmingham and when I listen to colleagues after, they explain that plans are closed after three months. On some occasions, the work has been done, however more often than not it hasn’t! Very disenchanting, you only have to look at a social work chronology to see this, then it reassessment for similar issues (or the same).

    The amount of domestic violence that is dealt with continually and the parents then get back together, therefore putting kids at further (ongoing) risk….Shameful.

    I only hope that one day I can get out of this work and do something meaningful……as for conference chairs they would rather challenge social workers on when they shared the report or does the family understand the danger harm statement, then challenge other professionals who don’t attend and often don’t care. When families don’t engage with them that’s ok, when they don’t engage with us, we get told off…..

    And to make it worse, there’s rarely any real change. Soul destroying for us, and perpetually harmful to the children that some of us try to protect on a daily basis

  3. Helen Bannister January 26, 2018 at 4:12 pm #

    How can you evidence sustainabilty of change after 3 months? It would be better to change the threshold of starting a CP plan and have robust Family Support /CIN plans than this revolving door.