Kirklees Council has ‘systemically failed’ in its duty of care to vulnerable children.
A damning Ofsted report published this morning rated its children’s social care service as inadequate in all key areas of the judgement.
The report said the failures were “due to serious and widespread failures which result in some children not being protected or having their needs met.”
It also criticises services for children being looked after and those on the “edge of care.”
Shortly after the report was published the government confirmed that Eleanor Brazil had been put in place as the Children’s Services Commissioner for Kirklees Council.
The direction issued by the government stated: “She will issue any necessary instructions to the council to improve children’s social care services.
“She will also review whether or not control of these services should be removed from the council.
“This will remain in force until revoked by the Secretary of State for Education.
“Kirklees Council has systemically failed as its children’s social care services have been found to be ‘inadequate’ across all of the key judgements in the recent Ofsted inspection report.
“In all cases where a council has persistently or systemically failed to discharge its children’s social care functions there is a presumption that service control will be removed from the council unless there are good reasons not to do so.”
In August 2015, an external review of services at the council identified serious concerns, with approximately ten per cent of cases at the time being deemed subject to poor practices.
In response, a new director for children and young people, Sarah Callaghan, was recruited, a Development Board was formed with the intention of improving standards and an additional £4million was committed to children’s services.
However, Ofsted’s report has highlighted a number of failures during its four-week inspection period.
They say that “many of these recent developments have yet to be embedded and are not yet making a sufficient difference to children’s experiences.”
Inspectors also found that “many children continue to receive a poor service in Kirklees.”
Kirklees Council’s Local Safeguarding Children Board (KSCB), was also deemed “inadequate”.
Councillor Erin Hill, cabinet member for Family Support and Child Protection, acknowledged the shortcomings of the council but says the staff are fully committed to improving the service.
She said: “Our priority has always been vulnerable children and adults.
“It’s about taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.
“At the end of the day, we exist to provide services for the people of Kirklees.
“It’s important that we have political scrutiny but also that we are public about what issues we’ve got and what the public can expect of us.
“We were upfront with Ofsted and when they were here they could see that we had already started to make some improvements.
“The big positive was that no children or young people were found to be at urgent risk or harm.
“We knew about the issues so Ofsted didn’t have to come in and tell us.
“The strong response to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a big plus as is our commitment to homeless young people - an area which we were previously weak in.
“Our staff are the most important asset we’ve got in making these changes and I’ve got absolute confidence on them during this journey.
“We broadly welcome this report because what it essentially says is ‘you’re doing the right things’.
“But we’re absolutely committed to meeting their recommendations.”
Sarah Callaghan, who was appointed as director for children and young people in April, said: “We knew that, in many cases, it would be too early for Ofsted to see the impacts (of the Development Board).
“However, we’ve got a big commitment to prevention and intervention.
“The way that we’re reshaping that will help alleviate some of the problems that we have.
“The Development Board exists to steer though these changes.”
She added that the Development Board, set up in February, will help oversee and scrutinise improvement in children’s services.
She said: “We’ve got multi-agency representation on there, an independent chair and the chief executive of the council also sits on there.
“It exists to hold us to account and to steer through the changes that we want to make and keep an eye on the progress that is being made.”