Children's Services - Inadequate

"Worcestershire Children's Services are Inadequate"

  ..... Ofsted report, January 2017

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  Jill Hawes  writes,

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Creative Commons - Jeff Smallwood

5th February 2017  

"In October and November 2016 Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills), undertook an inspection of Worcestershire County Council's Children's Services. The outcome of this inspection was made public at the end of January 2017.

The inspection covered three areas :

services for children at risk of significant harm, in need of help and protection,

services for looked after (in care) children, adoption and progress/experience of care leavers,

leadership, management and governance of the services.

In all areas , except adoption performance which "requires improvement", the services were found to be inadequate.

"Inadequate" is the lowest grading Ofsted can give a service. At first reading of the word this may not appear too damning. The dictionary definition of inadequate is "insufficient, incompetent" but the inspectors make the seriousness and dangerousness of this grading absolutely clear throughout their report:

"There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children in Worcestershire who need help and protection and  children looked after."

The inspection was critical of working practices at all levels in the service. It also identified that caseloads are too high, that staff are undertaking functions for which they are not qualified and the negative impact of an unstable workforce. 31% of the work force are agency workers --- apart from anything else this is an extremely expensive way to employ people.

But none of this should have come as news to Worcestershire County Council

Ofsted inspectors judged safeguarding services "inadequate" in 2010 and "adequate" in 2012. Inspectors judge that services have  "significantly deteriorated" over the last five years. That means that, for some vulnerable 7 years old children in Worcestershire, they have spent what many consider the most important years of their childhood living in an authority which has failed to offer them a quality service.

Worcestershire Conservative county councillors, the leading group on the council, have said they are "very disappointed" by the report. On its publication they pledged to put £3.5 million into Children's Services. This may benefit some children and young people but for some it will be too late. For them the cycle of vulnerability will roll on into adulthood with tragic consequences. Conservative councillors should take some time to reflect how their decisions to cut health visitor posts and take money out of children's and youth centres have contributed to the risks faced by children, young people and their families.

All of us have a common law duty of care to protect children. Elected members have increased responsibilities to protect the vulnerable of all ages. If they are in any doubt about it they should read the very first recommendation of the current Ofsted report :

"Ensure that elected members and senior leaders meet their statutory responsibilities and duties to the children of Worcestershire by improving all children's services."

Worcestershire's children and young people should have quality services. Other areas can and have achieved this. Telford and Wrekin is just one nearby example.

The electorate of Worcestershire need to elect people who believe in properly funded, accountable, responsible and high quality public services. It is time to fight back against the dismantling of civil society which leaves its citizens at grave risk .Conservative councillors have proved themselves unfit for the job; they must be replaced. Civil Society has its chance to do so in May, when these councillors will be seeking re-election."

Jill Hawes   

See also about the cuts in Health Visitor services.   

 

 

 

 

 

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