Council's child protection failings 'put children at risk'

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Inspectors have criticised a council for a raft of children's services failings that are putting young people at risk of harm.

The Care and Social Services Inspectorate found that support provided for vulnerable children at risk of harm by Powys County Council children's services is "beset with poor quality assessments and delays".

Inspectors also found that senior management is failing to support frontline social workers, and efforts to tackle child sexual exploitation are inconsistent.

Statutory guidance is not being followed in dealing with some child protection cases and opportunities are being missed to protect children, a report put together following a visit to the Welsh council in July states.

"A lack of assessment, care and support planning combined with an inconsistent approach to working in line with the child sexual exploitation guidance and the management of sexual exploitation and risk assessment framework process placed children at risk of harm," the report adds.

"There is evidence of missed opportunities to safeguard children, despite requests for support. Risks were not being appropriately and robustly assessed and there is no effective system to identify and manage risks."

Inspectors said the failings coincided with a period of upheaval at a senior management level, including the departure of the director of social services in December last year and the head of children's services in July.

This was found to have led to a lack of support and effective management of frontline social workers, who inspectors praised for showing "resilience and professionalism" and for their "commitment to protect and respond to safeguarding children in very difficult circumstances".

The inspectors report added: "There are serious performance issues with frontline services, however, these arose because of instability in management, poor and confused direction and weak governance.

"Without effective support and capacity to undertake the work, frontline staff cannot be expected to undertake the complex work required in children's social services."

Powys has been asked to produce an improvement plan in response to the inspectors' findings within 20 days and will be reinspected within the next year.

"We fully accept the regulators' recommendations, their report is both hard-hitting and challenging. We are sorry that we failed to meet the high standards residents deserve and apologise for our shortcomings," said council leader Rosemarie Harris.

"The council is totally committed to safeguarding children in our county, and I will be leading the council's response to the recommendations of the inspection from the front as a top priority and ensuring that the resources are in place to underpin this work."

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