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SSI REPORT CRITICAL OF KINGSTON UPON HULL COUNCIL'S SERVICES FOR CHILDREN IN CARE

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Essential services for children in the care of Kingston upon Hull ...
Essential services for children in the care of Kingston upon Hull

Council fell well below national standards, according to a report

published yesterday.

The report by the Social Services Inspectorate says the council needs

to take urgent action to tackle a range of issues, such as children

judged at risk but without allocated social workers, the number of

children in care, and the lack of early help for troubled families.

Kingston upon Hull council has prepared an action plan. SSI

inspectors caution that the size of the task is immense and will

require significant commitment to turn around.

Inspectors found that the council's social services failed to meet

standards on child protection and the placement of children in care:

- there were 58 unallocated child care cases, including 13

children whose names were on the child protection register and

14 children who were subject to care orders. And inspectors

found no plans to address these problems;

- children were left adrift in the care system. Often steps were

not taken to rehabilitate them safely into families or to secure

adequate alternative care, for example, for adoption. Too many

children had their placements changed and disrupted.

Other findings from the inspection which took place in November last

year are that the council has three times the national average of

children looked after and three times the national average of children on the child protection register; and over 50 per cent of children

living in residential care were under 12 years of age (77 children),

with a high number of all children looked after placed outside of

Hull.

Averil Nottage, deputy chief inspector, said:

'Urgent action should be taken by Kingston upon Hull council to grip

a number of issues, including unallocated child care cases; the lack

of early intervention for troubled children and families; the

`drifting' of children in the care system; and long term and

inherited deficiencies in strategic planning.

'Our inspectors came across some sound professional work by

individual members of staff striving to do their best. But we need to

see a corporate commitment to drive through change in the council's

essential services for children in care. Herbert Laming, the

chief inspector, has met senior representatives from the council to

express our concerns, which were accepted. We welcome the council's

action plan and will keep a close watch on its implementation.'

The report also says inspectors found insufficient emphasis on the

health and education of children, with local agencies not being told

systematically of placements for children or of plans for their care.

Individual staff and managers were at risk of being overwhelmed by

the weight of demands placed on them and there was a real danger that

children would be at risk or their needs would go unmet.

The report puts forward 28 recommendations on issues such as policy,

management, referrals, assessment, planning and monitoring.

NOTES

1. The report - 'Inspection of Planning and Decision-making for

Looked After Children in Kingston upon Hull' - is available from

SSI's North East Inspection Group, 16th Floor, West Riding House, 67

Albion Street, Leeds, LS1 5AA; or telephone 0113 243 0906.

2. The Kingston upon Hull inspection was one of ten inspections

undertaken in a sample of local authorities in England. The

inspection examined the policy and strategic framework for services

to children, the relevant management arrangements, the quality of

professional practice and the outcomes for children and their

families. Standards set by the SSI for evaluating services are drawn

from legislation, national guidance, research and good practice. The

findings from the ten inspections will provide material for a

national overview report in the summer of 1998.

3. Kingston-upon-Hull became a new unitary local authority following

the abolition of the former Humberside CC on 1 April

1996. The city scores highly on indicators of deprivation and

disadvantage. Its population is one of the poorest in England with

significantly higher than average levels of unemployment.

Twenty-eight per cent of Kingston-upon-Hull children live in five of the most deprived wards in the Yorkshire region. One housing estate is

considered to be the biggest in Europe.

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