Hull City Council promises improvements after “inadequate” Ofsted report on children’s services

Council leader Stephen Brady.
Council leader Stephen Brady.
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Over-worked Council staff are struggling to keep vulnerable children safe and some are spending their own money buying food and clothing for young people, unions have said.

The claims have been made after Ofsted delivered a damning inspection report on Hull City Council’s children’s service department, which was rated as “inadequate” overall.

The education watchdog said children were being left at risk of harm because of failings in the department, which was inspected in January this year. Following the report’s publication, Unison said its members are under growing pressure and budget cuts mean children are struggling to get access to hardship monies known as section 17 payments.

Unison convenor Nikki Osborne said: “Our members work over and above to help and support families. Some spend their own money buying food and clothing for vulnerable children and families because the cuts have resulted in the section 17 monies being cut and so difficult to access.”

Ofsted said too many children were being re-referred to the service because harmful behaviour by parents was not identified.

When children were at immediate risk of harm, the response was “timely and proportionate”.

But the report criticised the practice of children being interviewed alone by police officers, leading to them having to repeated their stories of traumatic events to different people.

The report said: “Arrangements to safeguard children with specific vulnerabilities, such as disabled children, children living in private fostering arrangements, and 16-year-old homeless children, are ineffective.”

Hull City Council said the report found improvements in areas including tackling children sexual exploitation and involving young people in how services are delivered.

Council leader Stephen Brady said: “Working closely with Ofsted and the Department for Education, we will ensure that the necessary improvements are made quickly so that the services we provide to our children and their families are of the highest standards.”

Since the inspection, the council said it carried out audits of 150 individual cases and made improvements to private fostering services. Staff training had been provided and the council has hosted visits from staff working for high-performing councils.

Coun Brady said £13m was invested in services over the past three years and a further £2m would be committed.

But the Unite union said more funding is needed to help cope with demand and has called for a change in management culture in the department.

In a statement the union said: “A joint approach with proper professional collaboration must take place to improve the outcomes for children and families in Hull and this requires a managerial sea change from the very top of the authority.”

The department was rated inadequate for overall effectiveness and for “the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection.”

The council got a “requires improvement to be good” rating in two other areas. They were “the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families” and “the experience and progress of children in care and care leavers.”