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Widespread failings found at met's children's services

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“Serious and widespread” failures at Kirklees Metropolitan Council have left children unprotected, Ofsted has found.

A report published on Friday rated children’s services inadequate in all three main categories and revealed inspectors identified problems with a large number of cases they scrutinised during visits in September and October.

As a result Eleanor Brazil has been appointed by the Department of Education as children’s commissioner in Kirklees to review efforts to improve services.

Chief executive Adrian Lythgo – who announced last week that he would leave the council – previously commissioned an external review after the Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board raised concerns about social work practice in August 2015.

The review identified further serious concerns and a subsequent internal audit of 226 cases identified widespread poor practice, resulting in urgent action to safeguard some children.

The council responded by appointing Sarah Callaghan as its new director for children and young people in April this year.

A multi-agency development board was also established to lead improvements.

Ofsted said that since the appointment of Ms Callaghan there had been “considerable efforts” to drive up standards.

This included a dispute resolution process which identified 500 vulnerable children who had not received adequate support.

But the report said other service strategies had yet to be embedded, with inspectors reporting they could not trust performance information they received.

A quality assurance framework had yet to be rolled out at the time of the inspection and the electronic recording system used by social workers was found not to be fit for purpose.

Support for staff was said to be inconsistent, with many not receiving training or supervision, and some caseloads were deemed too high.

The report found ongoing “serious deficits in social work management and practice”, including assessments and plans which failed to recognise risk.

Inconsistent decision making also led to some children not being safeguarded.

There were also delays in in removing unsafe children from home and a failure to provide evidence to ensure children at risk of significant harm were placed in secure environments.

Ms Callaghan said the Ofsted report had confirmed the council’s view that improvements still had a long way to go.

She added: “We were fully aware of the issues raised by Ofsted and were already taking urgent steps to improve support for children and families.

“There is new management in place and we are very realistic about the current position. We are remodelling the whole service and this will take considerable time.

“We knew that, in many cases, it would be too early for Ofsted to see the impacts. However, we are very confident that the benefits of these changes will soon be evident.”

Mr Lythgo added: “All local agencies who are responsible for safeguarding children are working together closely.

”Our shared commitment is to protect children and meet their needs in the best possible way.”

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