The government has ordered a review to determine whether Kirklees council should be stripped of its responsibility for services following a highly-critical inspection report.
The Department for Education has appointed Eleanor Brazil as a commissioner to oversee the Kirklees services after Ofsted inspectors rated the local authority as ‘inadequate’ and found “serious and widespread failures” had left some children unprotected.
During the inspection, 100 cases were referred back to the authority for urgent review after serious concerns were identified. Support for staff was found to be inconsistent, with too many social workers not receiving induction, training or supervision. An electronic recording system underpinning social workers’ practice was also “not fit for purpose”, Ofsted said.
Social worker and manager compliance with practice standards “continues to be a serious issue” in Kirklees. New practice standards had recently been introduced, but during the inspection some workers and managers were found to be failing to comply with them.
Ofsted said the standards of social work practice at the council had “significantly deteriorated” since 2011.
“Despite extensive efforts by leaders, managers and members to improve services…there remain many children and young people who are experiencing a poor service because of inadequate social work practice and poor frontline management,” the report said.
It added how the “poor quality of data” produced by the local authority’s recording system hindered improvements.
“For example, managers are unable to report accurately on children being seen and they do not have confidence in the management information produced, but instead develop manual systems to understand performance.
“Inspectors found the quality of data the performance data produced by the local authority to be unreliable, with serious deficiencies in its accuracy.”
The report said senior managers and leaders had secured funding for a new electronic recording system.
Ofsted recommended the council take “urgent action” to make sure children receiving services were safeguarded. It also needed to support staff to have more consistent relationships with children and deliver high-quality services through manageable caseloads, induction, supervision and training.
Brazil will provide a report to ministers recommending whether or not the council should lose control of its children’s services. She was previously commissioner in Sandwell, where she recommended those children’s services should be taken out of council control after ruling progress had not been good enough.