DfE acts after Ofsted rates council's children's services ‘inadequate'
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The government has appointed a commissioner to oversee children's services at a council rated "inadequate" by Ofsted due to serious child protection failures.
Inspectors were so concerned for the safety of some children on the books of Dudley Council that they referred 21 cases back to the local authority, warning that immediate action was required with some to ensure their safety.
These included children and young people not receiving adequate levels of support and protection, children and young people not seen by social workers for unacceptably long periods, poor planning for children and young people returning home from care and delays in securing permanence.
“The local authority has been aware of the deficits for some time, but has not taken sufficiently swift or robust remedial action to ensure that the most vulnerable children and young people are protected,” Dudley's inspection report states.
“This means that senior leaders and elected members cannot be assured that children and young people are safe or being effectively protected."
The Department for Education has acted quickly to appoint Eleanor Brazil, who has previously overseen the creation of independent trusts in both Doncaster and Slough, as commissioner for children's services in Dudley.
A direction notice issued to Dudley Council today states that Brazil will conduct a review into whether the most effective way of securing and sustaining improvement in Dudley is to remove the control of children’s social care from the council for a period of time.
Ofsted's report states that the current senior leadership team, which was established in April 2015, identified serious and widespread weaknesses in services for children and young people.
During the inspection, which took place over four weeks across January and February this year, it was found that the leadership team is making "concerted and appropriately focused" efforts to tackle a deteriorating services.
"However, the local authority is working from an extremely low base and required improvements will take a significant time to result in real and sustained change in the experiences of children and young people," the report states.
"However, too many children and young people have experienced drift, delay and further risk because the local authority has been too slow to decide what needs to change in a family if it is going to be safe for children and young people to remain.
"Weak management oversight, supervision and quality assurance processes mean that poor practice has gone unchallenged and children’s and young people’s needs have not been met."
Sarah Norman, chief executive of Dudley Council, said: “It became apparent to me very quickly after I joined the council last January that children’s services in the borough simply weren’t good enough.
“This is why we brought in a new senior management team in April including interim support, commissioned an external review of practice in May, shared a hard-hitting self-assessment with cabinet members and opposition leaders over the summer and established an improvement board in September to work with partners to make radical changes to the service.
“We fully accept Ofsted’s findings and the inspection has confirmed our own self-assessment of the services and we will continue at pace to rectify the issues.
"We have acted quickly over the last 12 months to drive forward these changes and we are pleased the report confirms ‘strong leadership’ is now in place."