The government has ordered a review of children’s services at Croydon LBC after Ofsted identified serious and widespread failures that left some children at risk of significant harm.
A government direction issued yesterday said education secretary Justine Greening had appointed Eleanor Brazil as commissioner in Croydon to conduct a three-month assessment of services.
During an inspection in June and July this year Ofsted found weak managerial oversight “at all levels” that had not ensured basic social work practice was of an adequate standard.
This led to children not receiving “robust and timely” support to reduce risk and the council was ordered by Ofsted to take immediate action in a small number of cases.
Inspectors found the council’s response to children missing or at risk of sexual exploitation was “underdeveloped”, leading to a poor response to concerns that left some children in harmful situations.
Ofsted said supporting a high number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children is a “formidable challenge” that had been a priority for the council. However, inspectors said efforts to maintain frontline support services for other vulnerable children had not had the same impact.
Inspectors also found early help for children was not fully established, with thresholds being inconsistently applied, and multi-agency support for children was not effective. Ofsted also said social workers’ caseloads were too high and presented a “serious barrier” to effective services.
Children’s minister Robert Goodwill said the government would take “tough measures” when councils are failing children.
He added: “We have appointed a commissioner in Croydon to conduct a three-month review before we determine the best next steps to ensure improvements are made for vulnerable children and families.”
In a statement Croydon said it was addressing all the priority issues raised by Ofsted and had allocated further funding to improve services, including launching a recruitment drive and appointing a new interim director of early help and children’s social care.
Croydon executive director of people Barbara Peacock apologised for service failings and said cases were being reviewed.
She added: “We identified the need for improvements last year but despite working extremely hard to make these necessary changes, they have not delivered the impact we wanted.
“The report has shown the extent of work that is needed. Much of this work is already under way but we recognise there is a lot more to do and we are working with Ofsted to create an improvement plan to drive through those changes.”
The council has commissioned Achieving for Children, which runs children’s services in Kingston upon Thames RBC, Richmond upon Thames LBC and Windsor & Maidenhead RBC, as an improvement partner.
Croydon’s children’s services were rated “adequate” following the previous inspection in 2012.