Headlines: December 18th, 2008

Children’s Services in four local authority areas have been judged to be inadequate by Ofsted inspectors and eight councils were found not to have come up to the mark for the ‘staying safe’ outcome. In 2007 no council was rated as inadequate overall while four fell short of the required standard for ‘staying safe’.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert said she was concerned by the results and the Local Government Association said poor performance could not be tolerated. The LGA chairman, Margaret Eaton, said, “There are no simple or easy answers to the challenge of protecting the most vulnerable children, only a relentless focus on doing the best we possibly can, at every level and in every service.”

She added, “The message has gone out loud and clear from all those who work to protect the nation’s children that poor performance cannot be tolerated and that there needs to be the help, training and support to ensure that everyone can raise their game.” Councillor Eaton said council leaders had agreed a comprehensive plan for the short, medium and long term to ensure local authorities improved the protection of vulnerable children, including support targeted at the areas which need it the most.

She was responding to an Ofsted report which judged children’s services in Doncaster, Haringey, Milton Keynes and Surrey to be inadequate overall and assessed those in Birmingham, Doncaster, Essex, Haringey, Reading, Surrey, West Sussex and Wokingham to be inadequate in the area of keeping children safe. Three authorities, Gateshead, Kensington and Chelsea and York were rated as outstanding overall.

Christine Gilbert said, “We see significant achievements across children’s services and those involved in doing difficult work in complex circumstances can be pleased about their achievements. I know they are not complacent and will strive to do better still for children and young people. “However, I am concerned that some services provided for the most vulnerable children and young people remain inadequate. Where this has been found in the APA, we have clearly identified where improvements are needed.”