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Bore summoned to London after Ofsted slams ‘inadequate’ Birmingham social services

Bore summoned to London after Ofsted slams ‘inadequate’ Birmingham social services

🕔30.Oct 2012

Birmingham Council leader Sir Albert Bore was at the Department for Education today in an attempt to convince the Government that the city’s failing children’s social services can be turned around.

He sought to persuade officials that the council is capable of improving standards at the troubled department, which has been operating under Whitehall special measures for almost four years.

Earlier this month Ofsted inspectors announced that services for children at risk of physical and sexual harm remained inadequate and issued an immediate 10-point improvement plan.

A further inspection is likely to take place at the end of 2013 and children’s social services may be placed under direct Government control if significant improvement cannot be demonstrated.

Sir Albert told a cabinet meeting that the department was “in the last chance saloon” as far as Ministers were concerned. He added: “We need to recognise the scale of change required and the pace at which we need to make it.”

Ofsted found that although there had been some improvement in recent months since the arrival of new Children’s Services Strategic Director, Peter Duxbury, numerous problems remained which meant that hundreds of young people in Birmingham were still at risk of being harmed.

Sir Albert was joined at the Department for Education in London by Mr Duxbury and cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families Brigid Jones.

A council spokesman said afterwards: “The meeting was not with a Minister but with DfE colleagues and members of the Improvement Board to discuss the next steps, our plans to address Ofsted’s issues and what the best arrangements for monitoring and supporting of improvement going forward are, as it is now two years since the current arrangements were put in place.

“No outcomes have been decided on yet but there is a joint commitment to review this and explore the best way to monitor our implementation of new and existing plans. There was an agreement to turn the series of current plans into one coherent one.”

The council was first issued with an improvement notice in February 2009. The notice has been renewed every year since then despite widespread organisational change at the department, the introduction of an Improvement Board and the departure of two directors.

During the latest inspection, Ofsted found:

  • Too many children left for too long without a robust assessment by social workers.
  • Slow pace of progress and a significant shortfall in meeting key improvement targets.
  • Most children known to Birmingham social services do not have a child in need plan.
  • Ineffective liaison between public agencies and a lack of leadership.

A lack of joined-up work between all of the responsible agencies – council, police, GPs and hospitals – has been a constant criticism from Ofsted.

Claims by the council that the establishment of Family Integration Teams consisting of representatives from all of the agencies would revolutionise social care do not appear to have convinced the inspectors who singled out the police for criticism. Police officers did not always attend child protection conferences, Ofsted found.

Sir Albert said he had raised the matter personally with the Chief Constable, Chris Sims, and had been given assurances that the police would attend in future.

Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Tilsley, who as deputy council leader from 2005 to May 2012 played a key role in delivering political support for social care improvement plans, admitted that the various public agencies were still “working in silos” to the detriment of vulnerable young people.

Teams charged with carrying out initial assessments of children in need were hampered by a lack of easily obtainable information. They routinely did not have access to school rolls or doctors’ records which meant that decision making took far longer than should be the case.

 

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