Education secretary Michael Gove has accused more than half of councils of failing to do enough to protect children, in the wake of a highly critical Ofsted report about Doncaster MBC that downgraded the authority to “inadequate”.
The Ofsted report, published today, said Doncaster was “not doing what is required to keep children and young people safe”.
It said inspectors saw “too many cases” during an inspection last month where the social work service was not doing enough to protect children.
In a statement the council’s chief executive, Jo Miller, said the council would improve its services by “bringing in increased capacity” and by learning from other authorities.
Education secretary Michael Gove made a speech after the report’s publication, in which he said too many councils were failing to protect children.
More than half of councils had failed to meet his department’s standards for safeguarding children, he said. Just 3% of 160 councils had been found “outstanding” by Ofsted after inspections of their children’s safeguarding services, he said, with 36% being ranked as “good”.
This left 45% being found “adequate” and 16% “inadequate”, Mr Gove said. He added that the “adequate” rating was “a situation which is not good enough and requires improvement”.
“It is necessary to highlight how poorly some parts of local government are discharging their responsibilities”, he said.
Mr Gove said, however, that local government figures with “outstanding records in child protection” were best-placed to help failing services to improve. He added that he had committed to funding sector-led improvement by the LGA, Solace and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, for another year - although he warned that he would “need to see rapid progress if that support is to continue in the future.”
Ofsted reports on Salford City Council and Redbridge LBC have also been published today. Salford’s child protection services were found “adequate”, a year after its overall children’s services were rated as poor. Redbridge was found to be “good” at child protection.
The Ofsted report on Doncaster MBC’s services said social workers sometimes did not realise soon enough that children and young people are “at risk of real harm”.
Instead, it said, they sometimes paid too much attention to “what the adults say and can be too confident about how well the adults can look after their children”.
The report described heavy workloads, high numbers of agency staff and high levels of sickness leave as factors contributing to the council’s shortcomings.
A separate investigation in to Doncaster’s children’s services is also due to be published today. The report, by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, will cover events following an attack in 2009 by two brothers, aged 10 and 12, on two other young boys in Edlington, Doncaster.
Commenting ahead of the publication of the reports, Doncaster MBC’s director of children and young people’s services, Chris Pratt, said: “It is clear that we have not yet fully recovered the systematically broken services that we previously had, and as Ofsted says, features of that systematic failure remain today.
“The reports do acknowledge progress has been made - and Lord Carlile’s reporting states Doncaster is not faced with the shambolic situation of early 2009 - but I’m acutely aware our progress hasn’t yet come far enough.
“We are using these reports as a major opportunity to up our game.”
Mr Gove said in his speech today that he would outline his plans for action in Doncaster following a meeting with its MPs next week. One of the town’s MPs, representing Doncaster North, is the Labour leader Ed Miliband.
More updates on this story throughout the day.