‘Inconsistent’ Knowsley children’s services slammed by Ofsted report

Authority deemed 'inadequate' in latest round of inspections says improvements are already being made

Failings characterised by inconsistent and ineffectual practice mean children in Knowsley are receiving ‘inadequate’ protection from the local authority, according to a highly critical Ofsted report.

An inspection of Knowsley Council’s children’s services by the regulator published yesterday states: “Too many children and young people who need help and support or who need to be cared for by the local authority experience drift and delay. Some have been left for too long in situations where they have suffered harm.”

Echoing concerns raised in last week’s Enough Is Enough study by the Centre for Social Justice on England’s child protection system, the report criticises the council for not consistently applying thresholds for referrals to children’s social care services. “A significant number of cases are inappropriately assessed prior to being stepped down to a CAF due to not meeting the threshold for a social work service,” it states.

The inspection also found:

  • Unsatisfactory risk assessment with too much focus being placed on the needs of adults
  • “Drawn out, ineffective engagement with families” owing to child protection plans that are not clear or outcome-focused
  • Variable and sometimes poor record-keeping
  • Weaknesses in management and supervision, resulting in case drag

The authority’s local children’s safeguarding board was also found to be inadequate.

Responding to the criticisms, Ron Round, leader of Knowsley Council, said: “We accept there have been some failings in the services we have provided. But our priority now is to continue to make progress on the improvement journey we had started and we are confident that we have already started to move in the right direction.”

Knowsley’s children’s services were rated ‘good’ by the last Ofsted inspection in 2010 and are showing strengths in some areas, the report says. It praises the authority’s looked-after children team – where staff turnover is lower than in assessment and safeguarding sections – and acknowledges the senior management team appointed under the director of people’s services, Paul Boyce, is making improvements to fieldwork and supervision.

Inspection reports on four other councils’ children’s services were also published yesterday: North Yorkshire and Oxfordshire were judged ‘good’, while Bournemouth and Herefordshire received ‘requires improvement’ gradings.

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