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Cornwall's children's services 'inadequate'


Children’s services in Cornwall have been condemned as “inadequate” in an Ofsted report which singles out the department’s leadership.

The report says children and young people in care are not properly safeguarded

As well as criticising the leadership, inspectors identified a range of failures in care planning, risk assessment, reviews, recording, planning and visits by social workers.

It also says there is a significant lack of initial emergency placements.

Dean Ashton resigned as director of children’s services earlier this month, saying he felt that the time was right for someone else to take a new approach to improving standards.

Chief executive Kevin Lavery, left, has drawn up an action plan which includes the appointment of Richard Hubbard as interim director and Kevin Peers as interim head of improvement.

Mr Lavery said the July inspection had raised “a number of serious issues which need to be addressed as quickly as possible”.

Before the Ofsted report, Mr Lavery said: “Our focus is to improve children’s care as quickly as possible. Therefore we were not prepared to wait for the final report to be published and have taken immediate action to put the problems right.”

Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was “working urgently” with Cornwall to address the concerns identified in the report.

“It is deeply concerning that Ofsted’s report highlights fundamental weaknesses in Cornwall’s children’s services,” she said.

“We will now ensure the council puts in place full and robust plans, very quickly indeed - that will get to the heart of the problems and secure rapid and sustainable improvement.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • There is no doubt that the Ofsted inspection report records the details of a command and control hierarchy and that it could probably deliver dramatically better services. The world Ofsted provide a glimpse of is a classical pyramid of power. trickled top-down. Unfortunately Ofsted are part of that hierarchy. They have command and control compliance thinking, and so what they find are problems with compliance. In hierarchies compliance is about how managers transmit control to those who do the work. Therefore what they find in the report is problems with transmission and control.

    'policies, procedures & guidance and compliance' 'case management' 'commissioning' 'Action plans on cases' 'targets' 'number of caseloads per person' ....

    They than make recommendations that will reinforce more transmission and control.

    A different approach to the whole thing might be to think about and understand the service differently. Perhaps studying it systematically to understand the true causes of poor performance? Of course, this might mean a realisation that some of those causes are in fact the control and transmission things such as targets and ....inspection and compliance. This would leave them rather high and dry as they would have to change themselves. Of course, this would mean admitting mistakes. This might invite those whose careers have been ruined to seek redress. This would mean that Ofsted is not capable of learning and improving. Which in turn means that the organisations is controls (a meaning of the term regulation) can never improve!

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  • What a load of tosh writes Anony 23th , organisations manage to achieve objectives working all around the world, on different time zones, currencies, languages and product requirements, through all in the organisation being clear on what is required and them being monitored and performance managed consistent there with.

    Unfortunately what we have too often in the Public Sector are very, very important services being managed by people with no proper management training (does training to be a social worker or teacher or indeed an environmentalist include any organisation and management coverage ?) and then we wonder why we have problems, as both service staff and management have no understanding of what the benefits ofproper performance management would bring.

    Leaving management to the managers and letting the social workers, teachers and doctors, et al do the important work with the recognition that budgets have to be lived within, then we might just get some results,

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  • Anon 24th

    What you suggest, that all around the world organisations 'meet' objectives, is kind of almost true. I think that a better way of saying this might be that organisations all round the world 'aim' to meet objectives.

    Objectives can also be achieved with different methods. One method is command and control, based on top-down hierarchy management. This approach is all about control.

    Workers do work based upon rules set by managers or others e.g. Ofsted (in the form of policies, procedures, guidance, targets, action plans). Control extends to how work is organised, segmented and controlled. How many cases a worker does is decided hierarchically so as to be fair. So that workers work in patches and they get the same numbers. Workers are then expected to do the work according to these rules. In effect the worker has their brain removed because they are following the orders of managers. Improvement happens only when the controls change (policies, procedures, action plans, targets, budgets) and this is done by a 'performance management team'. If change happens it is slow near on glacial. It means that workers often work in strange dysfunctionally designed organisations, with IT systems etc that stop them working and helping those that they are their to help.

    This is how Ofsted inspectors think. They go into an organisation and check what the controls (policies and procedures etc) say and then what is happening against those controls. Because workers are not responsible for the work, somebody else controls it, Ofsted criticise managers and their controls.

    Another method is to design an organisation where learning, improvement and responsibility is built-in to the work. Where control is with the worker, and managers jobs are to remove the things that stop the workers doing the right thing for service users. Instead of a dysfunctional, expensive and demoralising hierarchy where the only people whose brains are engaged are managers this model engages all brains. Improvement is continuous and often free. Managers no longer experience conflict with 'difficult' workers who aren't following their controls, because workers want to do the right thing by service users.

    So leaving management to managers really depends upon what you mean by management. If it is management that engages the heads of everyone then great.

    If it is management that Ofsted likes, so that responsibility for improvement is left with management and Ofsted then I think not.

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