Tameside Council services ‘inadequate’ for vulnerable children, damning OFSTED report says

A damning report into Tameside Council’s services for vulnerable children has been released by Ofsted today.

The Local Safeguarding Children Board was inspected between September 26 – October 20 and Ofsted concluded that there are “serious and widespread failings in the help and protection that children in Tameside receive.”

The only area of children’s services that received a ‘Good’ rating was adoption performance. Tameside Council were told that the experiences and progress of care leaders requires improvement whereas ‘Children who need help and protection’ and ‘Leadership, management and governance’ were both rated as Inadequate.

The opening line of the report is a precursor to the scathing 41 pages that follow: “Failure by the local authority to ensure sufficient capacity to meet increased levels of demand in almost all areas of the service is a primary contributory factor to the poor practice seen in this inspection.”

Among the more critical aspects of the report are failures to properly identify and protect children at risk of sexual exploitation and allegations of abuse not being investigated correctly.

Cllr Peter Robinson

Cllr Peter Robinson’s role as Executive Member for Children and Families at Tameside Council means he has the statutory lead, monitor and oversight about policy, strategy and provision regarding functions supporting children, young people, and families.

In response to the report, he said: “When I took on the role of Executive Member for Children and Families back in January this year I knew it would be both a challenge and a responsibility.

“With many years personal experience as a foster carer I know how important it is to support young people who need help and a stable home life.

“Ofsted’s judgement is disappointing, but I know we have the staff and the caring community to ensure we can improve our services and give vulnerable children the opportunities while growing up to help them achieve their dreams.”

However, the report suggests otherwise, highlighting “a workforce that is not suitably experienced and “high staff turnover.”

It continues: “Social workers’ caseloads are high, in most teams, and the work is frequently complex. This means that social workers often do not have sufficient time to understand fully and respond to children’s circumstances. Turnover of staff results in some children having to tell their story repeatedly.

“Deficits in social work practice are not always addressed, due to ineffective management oversight in many parts of the service.”

In addition, at the time of Ofsted’s inspection, there was a backlog of over 350 cases waiting to be dealt with, while more than 150 children considered at ‘medium risk’ of domestic abuse were still yet to be assessed. In some cases, children had been waiting for two months.

The watchdog has also claimed that bosses were unaware of the scale of the problem due to a lack of quality control, leading them to have an ‘overly optimistic view of the services for children.’

Cllr Kieran Quinn

Executive Leader of Tameside Council, Cllr Kieran Quinn, says turning around children’s services will be an immediate priority for the council.

He said: “Clearly I am very disappointed with Ofsted’s assessment of children’s services in Tameside. To put this in context, Tameside is now amongst the nearly 90% of the North West population living in an area judged by Ofsted, under their new tougher framework, to need improvement in its children’s service.

“Responding to the Ofsted report will be a clear priority for me and I will ensure the necessary changes are put in place to address the issues they have raised. No stone will be left unturned in the work to find new, innovative and financially sustainable ways to deliver better services.

“In Tameside we have a track record of working together with the local community and partners to solve problems. In fact, Ofsted acknowledged a number of recent changes in Tameside which they considered to be steps in the right direction, albeit too early for them in this report to have assessed the full benefit. I know that by coming together in this way and listening to children and families we can and we will, get this right.”

Ofsted have put in place a series of recommendations which include an urgent review of the Safeguarding Children Board and ensuring that the views of children and young people are used to influence planning- something which the council has so far tried, but failed, to do.

Stephanie Butterworth, Director of Children’s Services at Tameside Council, said: “Keeping vulnerable children safe is our number one priority, so it is reassuring that Ofsted did not find evidence of immediate harm. But our job is to do much more than that.

“The ambition of our committed and passionate workforce is not only to keep vulnerable children safe but to give them the opportunities available to all children and prepare them for a fulfilling adult life. To ensure we do that the voice and experience of children will be the guide for how we plan and change services to meet their needs.”

You can view the full 41-page report at http://bit.ly/2haEmXF.

 

By Tom Greggan