Poverty and Inequality

19.03.19

Stoke-on-Trent council’s ‘inadequate’ children services slammed by Ofsted in ‘outrageous dereliction of duty’

Vulnerable children are “not being protected” by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and are being failed by its “inadequate” services, Ofsted has found.

An inspection of the children’s services in Stoke found that children experienced “serious and widespread delays in having their needs met,” criticising poor leadership and “corporate failures” to address the problems.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has announced that a multi-million-pound investment into children’s services will be made immediately, and has already appointed a new management team which has begun making “direct operational changes.”

The report said the council’s services, rated ‘inadequate’, had “seriously declined” since its last inspection in 2015 and Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Gareth Snell described it as an “outrageous dereliction of duty.”

During the inspection in February, Ofsted found that vulnerable children in the area were not being protected with leaders failing to understand the extent and impact of the failures.

The services’ governance had been ineffective in prioritising and oversight and the absence of clearly-evaluated performance information marked a large decline in the quality of the children’s services.

Ofsted said social workers were not being supported to practice safely and were not receiving one-to-one case supervision – and, as a result, thresholds were not consistently applied, risks not managed, and children’s views ignored.

There were insufficient fostering placements to meet local need and many children in the services were being placed in unregulated and in some cases “unsafe” placements, which the council was aware of.

The report found that too many children came into care in crisis, too many waited too long to be reunited with families and that social worker caseloads were too high, averaging more than 25 children.

Ruth Smeeth, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, stated: “The people responsible for keeping our kids safe have failed us, they've failed our city, and they've failed our families.”

The leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Ann James, reassured families that the council was taking the Ofsted ruling “extremely seriously” and was “very concerned by the findings.”

She confirmed that a new management team had been appointed with a new interim director of children’s services, and operational changes had been made in direct response to the ruling.

James stated: “I’d like to reassure families that we have listened closely to all the comments from inspectors, have identified areas where improvements need to be made, and welcome the support of Ofsted and other partners in helping us to address these issues as quickly as possible.

“We are absolutely committed to supporting children in our city and improving our services – we will quickly move to a much-improved position.”

The Department of Education is also reported to be in the process of appointing a minister to direct urgent improvement.

Image credit - CraigRJD

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