Ofsted rates council 'inadequate' over child protection failings

By Neil Puffett

| 01 September 2015

A council has been criticised by Ofsted for potentially placing children at risk due to delays in assessments.

Darlington's children's services department has been rated "inadequate" by Ofsted. Picture: Darlington Borough Council

Although inspectors found that some parts of children’s services in Darlington were good, and others were improving, overall the department was rated “inadequate”.

The report raised concerns that children do not always have their plans reviewed in time to make sure they are making good progress.

A total of 98 child protection conferences were postponed in the 12 months prior to inspection. Inspectors said that, in part, this was because assessments and reports are not ready on time.

“Some children are not seen in line with their plans, so workers cannot always be sure that risks are reducing,” the report states.

Meanwhile a significant number of children waiting for an assessment were found to have waited too long.

“Inspectors found 94 cases where there was delay in the completion of assessments,” the report states.

“In too many of these cases, children were left for too long in situations of unassessed risk.

“This is a significant failure by senior leaders to ensure that the most vulnerable children receive a timely social work service.”

The report said that, when children do receive an assessment, they are “not always comprehensive and focused on all areas of risk”.

“While some examples of good practice were seen, this is not consistent, and in the four worst case examples, children were left at potential risk,” the report states.

Ada Burns, chief executive of Darlington Borough Council said she is confident that the children known to children’s services are safe and their needs have been assessed.

“Although we are disappointed by the judgement of inadequate, particularly as work was already under way to address many of the issues highlighted by Ofsted, we accept the detail of the report and will implement its recommendations.

“The political leadership of the council, its senior officers and managers in children’s services pay close attention to this vital area of business, but accept that there are improvements that we need to make to the level of scrutiny and oversight, performance management and timeliness of social work assessments that determine that the right plan is developed for each child once the immediate risks are addressed.

“We are making those changes. We did not wait until the report was published to start making or speeding up improvements which were being progressed before the inspection.”

A separate inspection of children’s services in Wiltshire rated them as "requires improvement".

The report states that the authority is not yet delivering good protection and help for children, young people and families, or good care for children and young people that are looked-after.

The previous inspection of the authority's child protection services in July 2013 judged services as "adequate".

To read about how council's have achieved a good rating, click here.

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