In a damning report, published today, the Isle of Wight council has been judged as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in performing their duty to protect children and young people. ‘Inadequate’ is the lowest grade available.
The opening paragraph of the summary document speaks volumes:-
The purpose of the inspection is to look at how well the council and other organisations help and protect children and young people to be safe from harm and to be well cared for.
Overall we rated the Isle of Wight as inadequate for how effective child protection services are.
Inadequate in every category
The report is grim reading, with every category stamped Inadequate.
- Overall effectiveness – Inadequate
- The effectiveness of the help and protection provided to children, young people, families and carers – Inadequate
- The quality of practice – Inadequate
- Leadership and governance – Inadequate
The report is thorough and detailed, explaining how the Inspectors spent a ten day period at the council, between 26 November to 5 December 2012, looking through case files.
Here’s a sample of comments from some of the sections.
- 14 – “During this inspection a significant number of cases were brought to the attention of the local authority where children and young people had not been adequately protected and the circumstances of these cases indicated that there are significant weaknesses and systemic failures in core child protection business.”
- 22 – “The majority of assessments seen are of poor quality, lacking sufficient analysis of risk and indicating a lack of understanding of risk factors.”
- 22 – “This has resulted in some children and young people not getting help and protection at the right time and in some cases left in situations where there is risk of significant harm.”
- 25 – “Too many strategy and legal planning meetings are ineffectively led by consultant social work staff demonstrating a lack of planning, decision making, recognition of risk and appropriate actions to minimise risk.”
- 29 – “Too many cases are kept at contact stage that should be escalated to a referral and initial assessment. This exposes some children and young people to unnecessary risk and inspectors found too many cases where there was not a timely and robust response to their need for protection.”
- 29 – “the council did not initially recognise all the weaknesses inherent in their practice and partner agencies also report with some frequency that cases that meet the threshold for assessment are not escalated by the First Response team and these are too often held at CAF level or given no service at all.”
- 40 – “Leadership and governance is inadequate.”
Island’s Children’s centres praised
The only sign of some good news is the Island’s Children’s centres.
26 – “Children’s centres are located in the areas of most need and provide good quality services with those that have been inspected by Ofsted being rated as good or better.”
Have you seen more?
The report is detailed, we’ve done what we can to highlight the key points, but it’s highly possible that there are items that we have overlooked. Please feel free to add items or comments below.
This from the council
Below is what the council issued today. They chose not to send this to the media (well On The Wight, at least), but instead posted it to the ‘News’ section of the council’s Website.
Joint statement from the Isle of Wight Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education Cllr Dawn Cousins and Ian Anderson, Director of Community Wellbeing and Social Care.
“The council accepts the findings of the inspection report and is taking these extremely seriously. We recognise that failings have been identified and fully agree that this is not acceptable. We are determined to investigate and resolve these and to ensure that the high standards of social work practice rightly expected are delivered by this authority.
“At the same time, we want to reassure the Island community that as a result of our investigations following the inspection we have confirmed that the main areas of concern about social work practice were limited to the performance of a small number of staff in a specific area of the service and we have acted promptly in taking action in relation to those employees.
“The vast majority of our staff are hard-working, committed individuals with the interests of children and young people at the heart of everything they do – a fact that was recognised within the report – and we know that they are as disappointed as we are with the findings of this inspection and are committed to addressing the shortcomings identified.
“We recognise however that we all need to take responsibility for improving the care and protection of young people on the Island; from strengthening our leadership and governance arrangements, to ensuring all agencies challenge each other effectively and that we address the quality and robustness of the systems and practice that we have in place, particularly those relating to assessments and planning.
“We know we are not alone in receiving this judgement following this much more rigorous new inspection regime from Ofsted, however we welcome the thoroughness of this process and its ability to shed light on issues that might have otherwise been harder to identify.
“In response to the inspection outcomes, as well as dealing with immediate staffing issues we have already:
– appointed an interim senior qualified and experienced social work manager, with immediate effect, to work closely with the Deputy Director to examine and strengthen social work practice and management across Children’s social care services
– undertaken a thorough review of 700 cases that were referred to us over the last four months and where a decision was made that no further action was required. This work, undertaken by staff who were not involved in the original case decisions, has now been completed and it is reassuring that in most of these cases the decisions made were sound. Where issues have been identified, the appropriate course of action has been taken to ensure that no child is at risk of harm or abuse.
“We are also continuing the work we had started before the inspection to address the structure and work of the local safeguarding children’s board (LSCB), working closely with the new chair and partner organisations, to ensure its effectiveness in providing oversight and leadership to all aspects of safeguarding vulnerable children and young people..
“We are pleased that some aspects of the council’s work in this area have been praised within the report; in particular the work to provide early help to children, young people and their families and especially that support provided by children’s centres and schools, our work with children and young people with disabilities and their families and our support for vulnerable teenagers.
“We are also pleased that our efforts to embed a new nationally recognised best practice model of organising social work teams has been acknowledged along with our success in reducing social worker vacancies and delivering a comprehensive learning and development programme. These are key building blocks in helping us strengthen the quality of social work on the Island.
“The safeguarding of children and young people on the Island and the support to their families is, and will continue to be, a key priority to both members and officers of this council and we continue to support that with the investment of more funding, as proposed in our recent budget report to Cabinet.”
Update: 14:29 Reordered text, removed block quote.