Cambridgeshire: Child Protection Warning

The standard of child protection services at Cambridgeshire County Council has been judged as 'inadequate' by the watchdog Ofsted.

One in seven councils in England, including Cambridgeshire County Council, are ``inadequate'' at caring for some of the most vulnerable children in society, a report has found.

The standard of child protection at 20 councils is ``unacceptably poor'', Ofsted has warned.

Only one in four local authorities are judged to be ``good'' at safeguarding children, a new report by the watchdog has concluded.

Ofsted, which inspects children's social care including child protective services, said more needs to be done to address ``incompetent and ineffective'' leadership in children's services.

Some managers do not have a ``firm understanding'' of what constitutes good practice, the watchdog said.

In its first stand-alone social care annual report, Ofsted said that children's services need ``strong and stable leadership'' to improve the services that provide help, care and protection to children at risk of abuse or neglect.

Inspectors found that in the weakest places many ``basic acceptable practices'' were not in place and some authorities were criticised for poor coordination with health workers, police and schools.

HM chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: ``As it stands today, there are 20 councils where the standard of child protection is unacceptably poor and judged to be inadequate.

``Incompetent and ineffective leadership must be addressed quickly. But where those in leadership positions have capacity and potential, this must be recognised and nurtured.

``Too much leadership volatility in social care is counter-productive - that goes without saying. One in three local authorities has had a change in their director of children's services last year alone. The combination of unstable communities and political and managerial instability in our social care services is a dangerous mix.''

Ofsted's national director for social care, Debbie Jones, said: ``The picture of performance we are publishing today shows there is clearly an ongoing need for improvement.

``Some services are increasingly expert at reducing risk, helping families to look after their children and enabling children at risk in their area to make good progress.

``It can be done, and therefore it must be done in all areas, equally well. Ofsted will be rigorous in holding local councils and social care providers to account but we will also support them to make the improvements that children deserve.''

Here is a list of the failing local authorities:

  • Barnsley
  • Bexley
  • Birmingham
  • Blackpool
  • Calderdale
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Cheshire East
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • Doncaster
  • Herefordshire
  • Isle of Wight
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Medway
  • Norfolk
  • Northamptonshire
  • Rochdale
  • Sandwell
  • Slough
  • Somerset

Cllr David Brown, from Cambridgeshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People's Services, said: "We have responded quickly and rigorously to the judgement made over a year ago that our arrangements were inadequate. All the actions recommended by Ofsted have been delivered and we have gone beyond this to deliver a much wider improvement programme across all aspects of safeguarding.

"The focus has been on relentlessly driving up the quality of practice and in particular seeking consistency across all teams. Our Ofsted report actually praised a great many areas of practice, but we accept we had variability rather than consistency.

"An independent review of our safeguarding practices has just been completed and of the 55 social work cases randomly selected, none suggested children had been left at risk of harm or in an unsafe situation due to poor practice. There is evidence from audits and practice observation of sound case recording, assessment, risk management and analysis and a definite improvement in the quality of practice.

"We are encouraged by this independent feedback about the progress we've made and how far we've come since the inspection in September last year, but we know we still have more work to do and the focus on improvement and the prioritisation of safeguarding will continue."

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