Government-ordered children's trust services rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted

By Neil Puffett

| 17 February 2016

The quality of children's services provided by a government-ordered independent trust have been rated as "inadequate" by Ofsted.

An independent trust was launched in Slough in September 2015. Picture: Slough Council

Slough Council was told by the Department for Education in July 2014 that children's services would be split off from local authority control and run by an independent trust in an attempt to improve performance following an Ofsted inspection in November 2013 highlighted serious weaknesses in child protection work.

An independent trust was eventually launched on 30 September 2015. But a report published today following a three-week Ofsted inspection that began in late November 2015 reveals that not enough improvement has been made since the November 2013 inspection.

"Leaders in Slough Borough Council have not achieved enough improvement since the previous Ofsted inspections in 2011 and 2013," the report states.

"Important areas of children’s social care services are still inadequate and a considerable amount of work is required before services for children can be considered good."

The report adds that the decision to establish an alternative delivery model for children's services and the process of establishing the trust "took too long".

"Although plans are in place to resolve the few remaining areas of responsibility, some arrangements, such as who is to take the lead on commissioning, are yet to be agreed," the report states.

"Much needs to be done to cement relationships between the council and the trust and to secure an unwavering focus on the task of improvement."

Concerns flagged up by Ofsted include there being too many agency social workers and managers.

"The level and turnover of agency staff continue to hamper progress and impact negatively on some children’s experiences," the report states.

The speed and effectiveness of responses to children who are referred to children’s social care was also called into question. Although inspectors found that it had improved in recent weeks, they said many children have been "left too long in situations of risk".

Meanwhile children at risk of child sexual exploitation were not effectively identified or protected.

Nicola Clemo, chief executive of Slough Children's Services Trust, said the trust had been in charge of children's services for just seven weeks before Ofsted inspectors arrived.

She added that Ofsted acknowledged that some improvements to services have been made and children are "already safer as a result".

"The trust is implementing a new social work model, a child-focuses way of working, that Ofsted highlights is 'an evidence-based systemic model of service delivery'," she said.

"We are also focusing on the recruitment of more permanent social workers, which Ofsted states is an 'assertive and coherent plan for recruitment and retention'.

"We launched Slough Children's Services Trust with a vision to ensure every child in Slough is safe, secure and successful. We will achieve this by continuing to put the children we support at the heart of all we do."

At the time that the independent trust was ordered, Slough Council said the government's plans were "not the swiftest and most effective approach to deliver improvements to children's services". It is the second government-ordered trust to be rated inadequate, after Doncaster's Children's Services Trust was rated inadequate in November.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The report highlights the importance of government intervention in Slough and the radical reforms to transform failing children’s services initiated by the Prime Minister late last year.”

“This government accepts nothing less than the best possible care for vulnerable children and will continue to make sure that not a single child is left behind.”

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