Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Child safety records scrutinised

children playing
Ofsted considers a range of factors affecting children's safety

Children's services inspectorate Ofsted says some English local authorities have had "inadequate" child protection.

Last year five areas were in this category as regards keeping children safe: Hertfordshire, Isles of Scilly, Salford, Stoke-on-Trent, Peterborough.

This year's round of inspections is currently under way and the councils have been defending their records.

To put the judgements in context, Haringey - much criticised following the death of Baby P - was rated "good".

Ofsted's summary report on the 137 services inspected during 2007, out of a total of 150, found "a slightly less positive picture of councils' contribution to all aspects of the staying safe agenda".

The proportion judged outstanding in 2007 (9%) was smaller than in 2006 (16%), and the overall proportion judged to be good or better (70%) was also down (from 73%).

"There is evidence of strong inter-agency work leading to some improvements, but in too many council areas management systems to monitor performance and the quality of work lack consistency and rigour."

Shortcomings

Ofsted's annual performance assessments of children's services take place between September and November each year and are supplemented by less frequent but wider ranging joint area reviews.

This year - prior to moving to a new inspection system - it has been using a proportional approach, deciding in advance whether actual visits to the authorities were necessary.

The inspectorate's assessment of child protection takes in a range of factors.

It defines as inadequate those services which "are having limited impact on improving outcomes for children and young people".

This might involve a number of shortcomings:

  • Children do not feel safe and report that their concerns are not heeded
  • The incidence of child abuse and neglect of children on the child protection register is higher than in similar areas, while staff fail to identify or respond to children in need or at risk of significant harm
  • Assessments are not completed in timely ways, or fail to involve the child, the family or other professionals. Cases are closed inappropriately and there are unnecessary re-referrals and re-assessments
  • Not all children who are in the care of the local authority are looked after as they should be
  • People may be employed who are unsuitable to work with children
  • Serious case reviews and management reviews are inappropriate or ineffective
  • Relevant agency and inter-agency policies, procedures and standards are absent or inadequate
  • Workers are insufficiently trained
  • Safeguarding information, support and provision are insufficient or not accessible to children and their carers
  • Children's outcomes are notably poorer than in similar areas

The report last November on children's services in Hertfordshire, for example, concluded: "Comprehensive safeguarding plans across the local partnership are in place but key operational processes in the children's social care service to safeguard children are inadequate."

Hertfordshire has told BBC News that in this year's inspection it had moved up to the "adequate" category.

More social workers

The section on keeping children safe highlights among the major strengths, "The rapid pace of improvement in safeguarding children and young people" and the fact that all eight children's homes in the area were "good" or "outstanding".

The assistant director of families and communities for Peterborough City Council, Maureen Phillips, said it had made substantial improvements since last year's Ofsted judgement.

"Essentially, the situation arose due to difficulties in recruiting qualified social workers. However, this is no longer the case as a result of the city council's substantial investment in recruitment and retention of qualified social workers," she said.

"In addition to recruiting to previously vacant posts, an additional 19 front line social work posts have been filled.

"Improvements in the service have been endorsed in recent Ofsted inspections of the fostering and adoption services and Peterborough City Council is confident that the former judgement in this area no longer applies."

And Salford City Council's lead member for children's services, Cllr John Warmisham, said: "No-one who works in children's services is in any doubt about the importance of what they do and their responsibilities for our most vulnerable members of society.

"Even before the report was published, the city council was taking action to make improvements to its safeguarding service."

It was on track to meet the annual performance targets agreed with the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The systems operate differently elsewhere in the UK.

The Social Services Improvement Agency in Wales says new child protection procedures implemented there last April are being watched with interest by English authorities, which are considering ways to promote collaboration between neighbouring safeguarding children boards.


The table below show the most recent published inspection findings for England. New reports are due next month.

OFSTED ASSESSMENT: STAYING SAFE

English local authorities' performance

Local authority Grade
Barking and Dagenham Good
Barnet Good
Barnsley Good
Bath and NE Somerset Good
Bedfordshire Good
Bexley Good
Birmingham Adequate
Blackburn with Darwen Good
Blackpool Good
Bolton Good
Bournemouth Good
Bracknell Forest Good
Bradford Good
Brent Good
Brighton and Hove Good
Bristol Adequate
Bromley Adequate
Buckinghamshire Adequate
Bury Good
Calderdale Good
Cambridgeshire Adequate
Camden Good
Cheshire Good
Corporation of London Outstanding
Cornwall Adequate
Coventry Adequate
Croydon Good
Cumbria Good
Darlington Good
Derby Good
Derbyshire Good
Devon Adequate
Doncaster Adequate
Dorset Adequate
Dudley Good
Durham Good
Ealing Good
East Riding of Yorkshire Good
East Sussex Good
Enfield Good
Essex Adequate
Gateshead Outstanding
Gloucestershire Adequate
Greenwich Good
Hackney Adequate
Halton Outstanding
Hammersmith and Fulham Adequate
Hampshire Good
Haringey Good
Harrow Adequate
Hartlepool Good
Havering Good
Herefordshire Adequate
Hertfordshire Inadequate
Hillingdon Good
Hounslow Good
Isle of Wight Adequate
Isles of Scilly Inadequate
Islington Good
Kensington and Chelsea Outstanding
Kent Good
Kingston Upon Hull Good
Kingston-Upon-Thames Outstanding
Kirklees Good
Knowsley Adequate
Lambeth Good
Lancashire Good
Leeds Adequate
Leicester City Good
Leicestershire Good
Lewisham Adequate
Lincolnshire Good
Liverpool Good
Luton Good
Manchester Adequate
Medway Adequate
Merton Good
Middlesbrough Good
Milton Keynes Adequate
Newcastle Upon Tyne Adequate
Newham Good
Norfolk Good
North East Lincolnshire Good
North Lincolnshire Good
North Somerset Good
North Tyneside Good
North Yorkshire Good
Northamptonshire Good
Northumberland Good
Nottingham Adequate
Nottinghamshire Adequate
Oldham Adequate
Oxfordshire Adequate
Peterborough Inadequate
Plymouth Adequate
Poole Good
Portsmouth Good
Reading Good
Redbridge Good
Redcar and Cleveland Good
Richmond-Upon-Thames Outstanding
Rochdale Good
Rotherham Good
Rutland Good
Salford Inadequate
Sandwell Adequate
Sefton Good
Sheffield Good
Shropshire Outstanding
Slough Good
Solihull Good
Somerset Good
South Gloucestershire Good
South Tyneside Good
Southampton Adequate
Southend-On-Sea Adequate
Southwark Good
St Helens Good
Staffordshire Good
Stockport Good
Stockton on Tees Outstanding
Stoke-on-Trent Inadequate
Suffolk Good
Sunderland Adequate
Surrey Adequate
Sutton Good
Swindon Adequate
Tameside Good
Telford and Wrekin Good
Thurrock Adequate
Torbay Adequate
Tower Hamlets Outstanding
Trafford Good
Wakefield Adequate
Walsall Good
Waltham Forest Good
Wandsworth Outstanding
Warrington Good
Warwickshire Good
West Berkshire Good
West Sussex Adequate
Westminster Good
Wigan Adequate
Wiltshire Good
Windsor and Maidenhead Good
Wirral Adequate
Wokingham Adequate
Wolverhampton Adequate
Worcestershire Outstanding
York Outstanding



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