Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 11:45 UK

Child services are 'inadequate'

Children playing
The council's head of children's services resigned ahead of the report

Children's services in Cornwall have been condemned as "inadequate" in a detailed report by Ofsted inspectors.

The report said children and young people in care were not properly safeguarded, with the department's leadership singled out for criticism.

Cornwall Council apologised, saying it had taken "swift and decisive action" to resolve the problems.

Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was "working urgently" with Cornwall on the issue.

The report said inspectors identified a range of failures in care planning, risk assessment, reviews, recording, planning and visits by social workers. It also said there was a significant lack of initial emergency placements.

'Fundamental weaknesses'

Key problems with Cornwall's child protection services included:

• Child protection referrals are "not done in timely way"

• Assessments of children and analysis of risks they face lack consistency

• Management ineffective in ensuring high standards of work and fails to support staff

• There are too few staff - social workers have high case loads and there are not enough health visiting or school nursing staff

The report stated: "Cornwall faces a significant challenge in changing the culture and practice within children's social care services are delivered securely."

The council says it has taken ''decisive'' action to address the problems

It made a series of recommendations, some to be implemented immediately, others over the coming months.

The director of children's services resigned shortly before the report's publication and an interim director has been appointed.

Kevin Lavery, chief executive of Cornwall Council, said the authority accepted in full the report.

"We have already taken swift and decisive action to deal with the issues. Our focus is now on the future and that we fix the issues as soon as possible," he said.

The council now had new leadership, which aimed to understand the problems, he continued.

I will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the safety of children and young people in Cornwall
Dawn Primarolo
Children's minister

"It does need a root and branch change, it's not something that can be a quick flash bang, so it will take time.

He said the key priority for change was ensuring the authority's 140 social workers were clear about correct procedures and were correctly supervised and supported.

"We are certainly not in a position as Haringey 12 months ago with the Baby Peter situation and we are fortunate that Ofsted have discovered these problems before we have had that sort of tragic event.

"It's all the more important that we do tackle this with speed," he added.

'Fundamental weaknesses'

Interim director of children's services, Richard Hubbard, said the issue was wider than just social workers or managers.

"It's about making sure the jobs are carefully designed, that accountabilities in safeguarding are very clear, and that there's a golden thread of responsibility, right from the front-end of the business to the very top of the organisation," he said.

Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was "working urgently" with Cornwall to address the concerns identified in the report.

"It is deeply concerning that Ofsted's report highlights fundamental weaknesses in Cornwall's children's services," she said.

OFSTED REPORT

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"We will now ensure the council puts in place full and robust plans, very quickly indeed - that will get to the heart of the problems and secure rapid and sustainable improvement.

Ms Primarolo added: "I will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the safety of children and young people in Cornwall."

The council also issued a statement apologising for failing vulnerable young people.

It said: "We recognise that many parents and carers in Cornwall will be worried by the findings of this report and would like to reassure them that plans are already being drawn up to improve these services."

There have been concerns about the quality of child protection in Cornwall for several years. In 2006, the county was rated inadequate by the watchdog and a government sanctioned team was sent in.

It was thought the service had improved with more favourable assessments in 2007 and 2008. The unitary authority Cornwall Council took over social services from the former county council following its formation in April.

An unannounced investigation in July found serious concerns in the system and a more detailed report was ordered.

OFSTED ASSESSMENT: STAYING SAFE

English local authorities' performance

Local authority 2007 2008
Barking and Dagenham Good Good
Barnet Good Good
Barnsley Good Good
Bath and NE Somerset Good Good
Bedfordshire Good Outstanding
Bexley Good Outstanding
Birmingham Adequate Inadequate
Blackburn with Darwen Good Good
Blackpool Good Good
Bolton Good Outstanding
Bournemouth Good Good
Bracknell Forest Good Good
Bradford Good Good
Brent Good Adequate
Brighton and Hove Good Good
Bristol Adequate Adequate
Bromley Adequate Good
Buckinghamshire Adequate Good
Bury Good Adequate
Calderdale Good Adequate
Cambridgeshire Adequate Adequate
Camden Good Outstanding
Cheshire Good Adequate
Cornwall Adequate Adequate
Corporation of London Outstanding Good
Coventry Adequate Adequate
Croydon Good Good
Cumbria Good Good
Darlington Good Good
Derby Good Good
Derbyshire Good Good
Devon Adequate Good
Doncaster Adequate Inadequate
Dorset Adequate Good
Dudley Good Good
Durham Good Good
Ealing Good Good
East Riding of Yorkshire Good Good
East Sussex Good Outstanding
Enfield Good Outstanding
Essex Adequate Inadequate
Gateshead Outstanding Outstanding
Gloucestershire Adequate Adequate
Greenwich Good Good
Hackney Adequate Good
Halton Outstanding Outstanding
Hammersmith and Fulham Adequate Good
Hampshire Good Good
Haringey Good Inadequate
Harrow Adequate Good
Hartlepool Good Good
Havering Good Good
Herefordshire Adequate Adequate
Hertfordshire Inadequate Adequate
Hillingdon Good Outstanding
Hounslow Good Good
Isle of Wight Adequate Adequate
Isles Of Scilly Inadequate Adequate
Islington Good Good
Kensington and Chelsea Outstanding Outstanding
Kent Good Good
Kingston Upon Hull Good No data
Kingston-Upon-Thames Outstanding Outstanding
Kirklees Good Good
Knowsley Adequate Good
Lambeth Good Good
Lancashire Good Adequate
Leeds Adequate Adequate
Leicester City Good Good
Leicestershire Good Good
Lewisham Adequate Good
Lincolnshire Good Outstanding
Liverpool Good Good
Luton Good Good
Manchester Adequate Adequate
Medway Adequate Adequate
Merton Good Good
Middlesbrough Good Adequate
Milton Keynes Adequate Adequate
Newcastle Upon Tyne Adequate Adequate
Newham Good Good
Norfolk Good Good
North East Lincolnshire Good Good
North Lincolnshire Good Good
North Somerset Good Good
North Tyneside Good Good
North Yorkshire Good Good
Northamptonshire Good Adequate
Northumberland Good Outstanding
Nottingham Adequate Adequate
Nottinghamshire Adequate Good
Oldham Adequate Good
Oxfordshire Adequate Adequate
Peterborough Inadequate Adequate
Plymouth Adequate Good
Poole Good Good
Portsmouth Good No data
Reading Good Inadequate
Redbridge Good Good
Redcar and Cleveland Good Good
Richmond-Upon-Thames Outstanding Outstanding
Rochdale Good Good
Rotherham Good Adequate
Rutland Good Good
Salford Inadequate Adequate
Sandwell Adequate Adequate
Sefton Good Adequate
Sheffield Good Good
Shropshire Outstanding Good
Slough Good Good
Solihull Good Good
Somerset Good Good
South Gloucestershire Good Adequate
South Tyneside Good Adequate
Southampton Adequate Adequate
Southend-On-Sea Adequate Adequate
Southwark Good Good
St Helens Good Good
Staffordshire Good Good
Stockport Good Outstanding
Stockton on Tees Outstanding Good
Stoke-on-Trent Inadequate Adequate
Suffolk Good Good
Sunderland Adequate Good
Surrey Adequate Inadequate
Sutton Good Good
Swindon Adequate Good
Tameside Good Adequate
Telford and Wrekin Good No data
Thurrock Adequate Adequate
Torbay Adequate Adequate
Tower Hamlets Outstanding Good
Trafford Good Good
Wakefield Adequate Good
Walsall Good Good
Waltham Forest Good Good
Wandsworth Outstanding Outstanding
Warrington Good Good
Warwickshire Good Good
West Berkshire Good Good
West Sussex Adequate Inadequate
Westminster Good Good
Wigan Adequate Good
Wiltshire Good Adequate
Windsor and Maidenhead Good Good
Wirral Adequate Adequate
Wokingham Adequate Inadequate
Wolverhampton Adequate Adequate
Worcestershire Outstanding Good
York Outstanding Outstanding


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SEE ALSO
Child services director resigns
07 Oct 09 |  Cornwall
Key council services are "weak"
05 Mar 09 |  Cornwall

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