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23.05.14

Birmingham children’s services ‘inadequate’ – Ofsted

Birmingham City Council’s children’s services department is continuing to fail the ‘most vulnerable’ children within the city, a new Ofsted investigation has revealed.

The watchdog made an overall judgment of the services saying, once again, they were ‘inadequate’, adding that the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) is not demonstrating that it has effective arrangements in place or the required skills to discharge its statutory duties.

Ofsted added: “Long standing and historical corporate and political failures continue to impact upon the current political and professional leadership of children’s services in Birmingham. In addition, inadequate strategic partnership arrangements have underminded a range of initiatives to improve services.”

In response to the inspection, Birmingham City Council welcomed the report and added that it was committed to improving its services.

Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said: “Ofsted arrived on site prior to the publication of the Le Grand report which addressed how to improve this city’s services to children. The council gave an all-party commitment to implement the findings of the Le Grand review and to fully support the improvement process set out by the DfE, overseen by Lord Norman Warner.

“In fact, Lord Warner’s initial letter to the secretary of state says quite clearly that a good start has been made and that there is a workable approach to improvement, though it is at an early stage and therefore fragile. He is very clear that he wants the council to hold a consistent focus on improvement, sustained over a long period of time.”

Lord Warner was appointed in March as an external commissioner to oversee improvement in Birmingham’s failing children’s social care services. 

However, Ofsted also highlighted that too many children are not seen quickly enough or properly assessed when first referred. For example, at the point of the inspection over 400 children in need cases, some of which were referred more than two months previously, had still not been robustly risk assessed or the children seen.

But Birmingham council’s director of people Peter Hay said: “We have been clear that we ourselves judge our current position to be inadequate, so fully anticipated and accept the judgement reached by Ofsted. Their work adds to our understanding of the shortfalls in the services, which complements the insightful work of Le Grand on how to tackle these long-standing problems.

“The crucial difference this time is that we receive the judgement within the context of knowing that we are on the right track in terms of improvement; in other words, we already know where we have been and where we are, and we now know where we are going.”

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