Barnet children’s services condemned as inadequate by Ofsted: ‘Serious failings put young at risk of harm’
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Vulnerable children are at risk of “significant harm” due to “serious failures” in Barnet’s children’s services, a shock Ofsted inspection has revealed.
The damning report, published yesterday, reveals: “There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Barnet. Inspectors identified a legacy of widespread poor practice and ongoing systemic failures and services that neither adequately ensure the safety nor promote the welfare of children and young people.”
Among failings highlighted are:
* Children living in neglectful or abusive situation are left for too long before care proceedings begin.
* A failure for safeuarding agencies to share information or act quickly causing “a delay for too many children, some of whom remain at risk of significant harm.”
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* Strategy discussions and child protection investigations “are of poor quality with insufficient information sharing between partner agencies to ensure rigorous risk analysis. “This results in risk to children not being fully understood or evaluated,” say inspectors
* The response to children at risk of sexual exploitation, gang involvement and those who go missing is “inconsistent” and “often insufficient”
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Inspectors noted “a significant deterioration in the quality of service” in the five years since a previous inspection.
Heads of service and team managers were identified as weak with a failure to put children at the centre of their practice.
Inspectors say: “Managers do not provide sufficient guidance or direction to improve practice for children or keep children’s progress at the centre of their practice.”
Services for privately fostered children was condemned as not meeting “minimum standards”
The report noted that since 2015 Barnet children’s services has faced eight serious incident notifications and has two serious case reviews ongoing.
Figures show that in March 2017, 345 children were under the care of Barnet council with 196 more the subject of a child protections plan,
A total of 2,849 children had been identified through assessment as being formally in need of a specialist children’s service.
The inspectors also accused the local safeguaring children board ((LSCB), which exists to scrutinise childrens services, of being inadequate.
They said: ”The Barnet Safeguarding Children’s Board is inadequate, as it is not effective in discharging all of its statutory functions. Monitoring of frontline practice has been poor and insufficient,”
To read the full report of the inspection carried out between April 25 and May 18 this year click here
Responding to the report, councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of Barnet’s children, education, libraries and safeguarding Committee, said: “Protecting vulnerable children and young people is a priority for this council and I have made it clear that we must do whatever it takes to bring services up to the standards we want. Our role as corporate parents and safeguarding our children and young people comes with responsibilities that all councillors must take extremely seriously. There has been a £3.8million investment committed to service improvement over the last year to ensure we have the resources we need.
“Whilst progress has been made, it is clear that the inspection shows that we have not yet done enough to improve our services for children and young people.”
He said a commissioner from the Department for Education would be coming in to supervise the service over the coming months and regular progress reports will be published.
Barnet’s Strategic Director for Children and Young People, Chris Munday, said: “We fully accept the findings of the report and are committed to taking further action to ensure better support for children and young people in Barnet. The need for systemic improvement across the service was identified by us and we have been working extremely hard to implement necessary changes, but these have not yet had the impact that is needed.
“There is no place for poor standards in Barnet and I am sorry that our services haven’t been good enough for children and young people. It is our responsibility to ensure that our staff are supported and given the resources they need to do their jobs effectively and meet quality standards. We have undertaken a root and branch review of services and changes have been made to put children at the heart of what we do.”