A new report reveals a range of management shortcomings and SSI chief inspector Denise Platt said: 'I am extremely concerned that, despite the amount of effort and energy that has gone into implementing an action plan in Hillingdon, my inspectors still found that poor quality decision making was affecting the lives of children looked after.'
The report says: 'A culture had been allowed to develop and take hold over a long period in which most staff had lost sight of their primary responsibilities to children.'
Assessments were not done, care plans not implemented, parents given the benefit of the doubt and cases allowed to 'drift'.
John Ransford, head of social affairs, health and housing at the Local Government Association, said: 'A lot of the problems are to do with the political and managerial organisation of the borough. It has stabilised now. What's important is that politicians deliver on promises.'
Mr Ransford added: 'The borough is currently advertising three child care posts. It's important to get good people in there with a chance to make a different. You can't change overnight . . . but they do need to make substantial progress quickly.'
The latest inspection found the council had a good framework in place including:
Quantitative management information
An active corporate parenting strategy
Publication of a comprehensive children's services plan
New assessment procedures accompanied by training
A rigorous approach to purchasing independent services
The best organisation of children's case files seen by the SSI
Excellent examples of clear, sensitive planning.
But this did not translate into outcomes because of:
Councillors' and senior managers' ignorance of the size of the job
A lack of rigour in recruiting senior managers
The inability of senior managers to stand back, analyse and then act effectively
No-one coming forward to take responsibility for a duty area, leaving children without safeguards
An unchallenging management culture
Monitoring focused on quantity not quality
An inward looking culture needing fresh ideas.