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Cornwall children's services woes continue

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Children’s safeguarding at Cornwall Council remains “inadequate” but it has improved at Haringey LBC and Warrington BC, according to new reports from Ofsted.

The watchdog’s latest full-inspection reports for safeguarding and looked-after children at the councils – all of which did not receive annual performance assessments last year pending last month’s in-depth checks – give cause for cheer everywhere except the South West unitary.

Inspectors judged overall safeguarding at Cornwall to be “inadequate” but gave “adequate” prospects for improvement at the authority. They gave more than 20 recommendations for improvement to be complied with in addition to those from its previous “inadequate” inspection in 2009.

They said that while  some improvements had been made “the extent and rigour of focus on operational child protection procedures and practice has been insufficient”.

The team, led by Pietro Battista, said there was “substantial evidence” that children’s social care did not ensure consistent and  robust assessment was undertaken due to a lack of adherence to statutory guidance, practices that were not challenged by statutory agencies.

“These practices lead to an unsafe child protection system which causes drift and delay and leaves some children at risk of significant harm,” they said.

“The management and practice of too many cases were assessed to be inadequate by inspectors, including children who were at risk of significant harm.”

Cornwall Council said that while it accepted the ratings given by Ofsted, it did not accept all of its findings.

Director of children’s services Trevor Doughty said consistent high-quality services could only be achieved by effective multi-agency working.

“This has to be a collective effort by all the agencies responsible for safeguarding children,” he said. 

“Everyone has a part to play.”

Haringey’s safeguarding was rated as “adequate” with “good” capacity to improve following an inspection last month.

Inspectors made a series of recommendations, including calling on NHS partners and other services to improve their attendance rate at child-protection conferences and to review the use of social-work assistants for some tasks.

Lorna Reith (Lab), Haringey’s children’s services lead, said Ofsted’s findings were “confirmation that we are making progress and heading in the right direction” in the wake of the Baby Peter tragedy.

“Clearly there is no room for complacency – and we will certainly be taking on board inspectors’ request to improve in certain key areas,” she said.

Warrington’s safeguarding was judged to be “adequate” with “adequate” capacity for improvement, following the “inadequate” rating in its last full inspection in 2009.

Among their recommendations, Inspectors demanded an immediate “quality audit” of longstanding care cases.

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