Nine authorities provide poor child services, inspection finds
By David Williams
9 December 2009
Nine out of 152 authorities providing children’s services have been given the lowest possible rating under new criteria employed by regulator Ofsted.
The results, released on December 9, form part of Oneplace, the Audit Commission-led inspection regime for local services, including the NHS, councils and schools.
The nine identified as ‘poor’ include Haringey, where Baby Peter died after months of abuse, and despite repeated contact with local agencies.
Birmingham and Warrington were among those given the lowest rating. Ofsted said the main reason for judging an authority ‘poor’ was when it found weaknesses in safeguarding children.
Ten authorities were rated ‘excellent’, including Camden, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and York.
The review scored 93 councils as ‘good’ and another 40 as ‘adequate’.
Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said the new approach, which emphasises the ‘outcomes’ of services, is more demanding but gives the ‘clearest picture yet of what is happening on the ground’.
She added: ‘These results show that the majority of councils are doing a good job [but] the small number of poorly performing authorities must renew their determination to improve.’
But councils attacked Ofsted for highlighting failures. The Local Government Association said authorities could do more to ensure child safety if Ofsted works with councils, rather than against them.
Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: ‘Merely highlighting failures fuels public concern over child protection and makes it harder for children’s social workers to get the respect they deserve.’
Kim Bromley-Derry, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, criticised Ofsted for giving ‘simplistic’ verdicts.
He said: ‘The analysis of the data does not appear to take account of the context in which a council operates. There is a lack of confidence in the inspection frameworks that contribute to the overall score – neither those deemed outstanding nor those deemed inadequate can be certain that their score is a fair one.’