Inspections into council child abuse failings ‘are too narrow’

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Every organisation involved in tackling child abuse and neglect should be subjected to examinations by Ofsted inspectors, local government leaders claimed today.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents town halls nationwide, is calling for an overhaul of the way children’s services are inspected, so the roles of everyone involved are monitored and included in a judgment.

It says current Ofsted arrangements for the inspection of children’s services are too narrow, taking a limited view of council performance and failing to assess the contribution of agencies such as health and the police.

The LGA is today holding a summit looking at how to protect vulnerable children, while separately experts involved in the Government’s troubled child sexual abuse inquiry will appear before MPs.

The inquiry set up by Home Secretary Theresa May has stalled following the resignations of the people appointed to chair it and uncertainty about how it will be granted extra powers.

Two members of the inquiry panel and the body’s expert adviser Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the damning report on sexual exploitation in Rotherham, will appear before the home affairs select committee.

Mrs May revealed in a letter last month that she was considering standing down the panel in favour of a royal commission or a new inquiry on statutory terms.

As well as Prof Jay, the MPs will hear from panel members Drusilla Sharpling and Professor Jenny Pearce as part of their investigation into the inquiry, which is without a chairman following the resignations of Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf.

Raising concerns about Ofsted’s inspections, David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Protecting children does not fall only to councils, but to the police, health services, schools and local groups.

“It is not fair to the children we are working to protect that Ofsted inspections only focus on council children’s services, failing to properly assess the essential work done by other organisations.

“We all recognise that it is only by working together to improve the way we protect children in the future that this evil crime can be eradicated and victims given the confidence to come forward.

“We need scrutiny processes to adopt the same approach, so every organisation involved in child protection is examined during an inspection. Councils are committed to this joint work; we need inspection processes to adapt so nothing falls through the cracks.”

Speakers at the LGA summit include local government minister Kris Hopkins and deputy children’s commissioner Sue Berelowitz. But John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, criticised the line-up, claiming victims were being excluded.

Responding to the LGA’s criticisms, an Ofsted spokeswoman said: “Ofsted shares the LGA’s commitment to protecting children and agrees with the need for an inspection approach that takes into account all of the different services involved.

“At the same time it is important that inspectors with the right knowledge and experience take the lead in their own areas.”

- Experts brought in to help turn around children’s services departments must be properly vetted to make sure they have not been involved in previous child abuse scandals, MPs heard yesterday.

Labour’s Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), called for a proper vetting process to make sure no one implicated in abuse scandals in places like Rotherham end up being hired as “intervention experts”.