Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Child services in Leeds still 'inadequate'

A child at home
Leeds City Council has carried out a review of child protection cases

Children's care services in Leeds have been branded "inadequate" by inspectors for the second time in five months.

The findings come in a new report following a detailed review carried out by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in November and December.

That followed an Ofsted inspection in July which said some children were "at potential risk of serious harm".

Leeds councillor for children's services stressed "progress was being made" to improve the department.

Councillor Stewart Golton added: "It goes without saying that improving services for the children and young people of Leeds remains a top priority for the council."

The report also calls on the council to carry out an immediate review of its resources to ensure it has enough staff to meet the demands faced by the service.

More needed to be done to improve how managers planned their staffing needs and how performance was assessed and managed, it said.

There is still much to be done to further improve the way we look after and support children and young people in Leeds
Stewart Golton, Leeds councillor

The inspectors also said more should be done to involve children and young people in how future services are developed and to recruit more families and carers from minority ethnic communities.

The July inspection followed a serious case review published into the death of two-year-old Casey Mullen.

It found better communication between agencies in the city could have prevented the death of the toddler, who was raped and murdered by her uncle.

However, the latest report says: "The findings from this inspection confirm that some of the serious weaknesses in child protection practice identified in the [July] inspection remain.

"The threshold for access to child protection services was until very recently set too high and the cost of delivering effective child protection services across the city is not yet fully understood by the council."

It acknowledged that: "Poor staff performance is being addressed and systems and processes have already been redesigned.

"These early successes demonstrate the council can make improvements."

'Much to be done'

However, it warned that social worker caseloads were too high, frontline management capacity was insufficient and the electronic recording system was not fit for purpose.

Mr Golton, executive board member with responsibility for children's services, said: "I'm pleased that [they] acknowledge that we are making progress and we have the capacity to do more.

"This latest report confirms what we have been doing, with positive progress being made, but there is still much to be done to further improve the way we look after and support children and young people in Leeds.

"While an 'inadequate' rating for the overall effectiveness of safeguarding services isn't good news, positive progress is being made."

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