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Birmingham City Council’s children’s social care services avoids ‘inadequate’ rating

Birmingham City Council’s children’s social care services have broken a decade of ‘inadequate’ ratings after Ofsted inspectors recognised standards have been revitalised since the launch of the council’s Birmingham Children’s Trust (BCT) last April.

Ofsted has awarded a ‘requires improvement’ rating for all areas at the authority’s children’s social care services, which has a past of “long standing and historical corporate and political failures,” ‘inadequate’ Ofsted ratings, and government threats of a takeover.

Inspectors said they had found a degree of progress from a low base level and acknowledged the importance of “delegating statutory functions to BCT” in enabling the re-vitalisation of both the practice and working culture.

The report said “considerable and focused work has resulted in a more effective response to the needs of children and families,” and added that improvements now ensured an effective and quick response to child protection issues and domestic abuse incidents.

Ofsted said that whilst improvements were evident, they had not yet resulted in consistently good services or social work and stated that “gaps still remain” along with a lack of pace for improvement.

The Birmingham Children’s Trust was set up in April 2018 so that responsibilities for children’s care services could be handed over to the voluntary trust to try and turn around a decade of poor Ofsted inspections.

In 2013, Ofsted warned that the children’s services, which had seen a number of high-profile child deaths in recent years, could be taken over by Department of Education officials if improvements weren’t made.

Then in 2014, the government took action and appointed former health minister Lord Norman Warner as an external commissioner to turn things around— but Birmingham’s children’s services continued to receive ‘inadequate’ ratings as Ofsted said the service continued to fail the most vulnerable children in the city.

Monitoring visits have taken place regularly since 2016, finding ‘steady progress’ but the inadequate rating has remained in place on the service up until the ‘requires improvement’ rating was given in Ofsted’s latest inspection result.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi described the judgement as a significant milestone and said: “This government will not hesitate to intervene where children are being let down, but today’s report is down to strong leadership and the hard work of staff at the trust and council.”

Ofsted said that the pace of improvement still needed to pick up to deliver consistently good services, adding that it wanted quicker partnership across agencies.

The chair of BCT, Andrew Christie, commented: “This inspection indicates we are making the necessary progress but that we have much more still to do.

“We now have a stable workforce, with low rates of agency social workers, lower turnover, more social workers joining us and fewer leaving the trust, and as the inspection notes our staff know their children well and go the extra mile.”

Image credit - ChrisHepburn


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