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Rise in 'inadequate' children's services

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Eight English councils have been rated as 'inadequate' at their crucial child safeguarding work, according to Ofsted’s annual performance gradings.

The Annual Performance Assessments show that four authorities children’s services departments have given an overall 'inadequate' rating - none suffered that fate last year.

Children’s secretary Ed Balls said that intervention was either underway or about to take place for all authorities rated inadequate - either overall or for safeguarding.

Ofsted says the number of English councils rated as 'good' for their children’s services work had dropped from 78% last year to 73% this year.

Haringey LBC, controversially rated as 'good' last year despite the death of Baby P , is this year among three councils rated 'inadequate' both for its overall children’s services and for safeguarding. The others are Doncaster MBC and Surrey CC.

Milton Keynes Council was the fourth authority rated 'inadequate' overall.

Mr Balls said: “We always act immediately on Ofsted’s judgements,” he said. “Following initial discussions we will then decide what further action or support is required.

“In all cases we will work with the authorities concerned - and with the Local Government Association - to put in place improvement support or intervention as quickly as possible.”

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert said that while it appeared the vast majority of councils were offering good services to children, the performance assessments could only offer a snap shot of their work and did not mean things were perfect.

“I would call on all local authorities, whatever their grade, to use their APA reports to drive up standards,” she said.

Grades for 147 of the 150 English authorities with responsibility for children’s services have been published: Portsmouth City Council, Telford & Wrekin BC, and Kingston Upon Hull City Council are contesting their grades.

In addition to Haringey, Doncaster, and Surrey, Birmingham City Council, Essex CC, Reading BC; West Sussex CC, and Wokingham DC also received 'inadequate' safeguarding assessments.

In 2007, five were rated as 'inadequate' by Ofsted for their safeguarding.

Three authorities - Gateshead Council, Kensington & Chelsea RBC, and City of York Council - were rated 'outstanding' for their overall children’s services.

Local Government Association chair Margaret Eaton said poor performance could not be tolerated and failing councils needed help, training and support to raise their game.

“There are no simple or easy answers to the challenge of protecting the most vulnerable children, only a relentless focus on doing the best we possibly can, at every level and in every service,” she said.

The list in full: council by council

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