Kirklees Council '˜failing' its most vulnerable children

Vulnerable children have been 'systematically failed' in parts of West Yorkshire where almost one in five children live in poverty.

Eleanor Brazil has been tasked by the Government to turn around Kirklees Council's failing child social care service.
Eleanor Brazil has been tasked by the Government to turn around Kirklees Council's failing child social care service.

A damning new inspection report rates Kirklees Council’s child social care service as inadequate across all key areas of judgement, despite recent interventions.

Children’s services inspectorate Ofsted said its rating was “due to serious and widespread failures which result in some children not being protected or having their needs met”.

Services for children who are taken into the council’s care and those on the “edge of care” were also criticised, Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board was rated “inadequate” for failing to discharge all its statutory functions.

As the report was published it was announced that Eleanor Brazil is to be the Council’s new children’s services commissioner.

Previously, Ms Brazil joined Haringey Council to restore confidence after the Baby P scandal, she investigated how Doncaster Council dealt with young people under threat of sexual exploitation and was credited with being “instrumental” in transforming Leeds’ children’s services in 2010.

In her new role, she can issue instructions to Kirklees Council to improve children’s social care services and she will review if control of those services should be removed from the council.

The Government stated its direction will remain in force until revoked by the Education Secretary, stating that in all cases where councils persistently or systemically fail to discharge children’s social care functions “there is a presumption that service control will be removed unless there are good reasons not to do so.”

While senior managers and councillors at Kirklees Council have implemented an improvement plan, this had yet to yield sufficient improvements to the experience of vulnerable children, Ofsted found.

Considerable efforts to accelerate improvement of children’s services have been made but “many of these recent developments have yet to be embedded and are not yet making a sufficient difference to children’s experiences”, it found.

Sarah Callaghan, who took over as the Council’s director for children and young people in April this year, said: “We have been clear for several months that serious issues needed to be addressed.

“This was discussed at Cabinet in May when we reported on weaknesses in practice, the actions being taken and our priorities for putting things right.

“The inspection has confirmed our own view that we’re on an improvement journey but still with a long way to go.

“We were fully aware of the issues raised by Ofsted and were already taking urgent steps to improve support for children and families.

“For example, Ofsted usually recommend the forming of a Development Board to oversee and scrutinise improvement, but ours was established in February.”

Ms Callaghan addded: “There is new management in place and we are very realistic about the current position. We are remodelling the whole service and this will take considerable time.

“We have already seen a huge amount of change – in our working practices, our management oversight and in ensuring the voice of the child is central to everything we do - with the goal of removing poor practice and achieving consistently high standards.

“We knew that, in many cases, it would be too early for Ofsted to see the impacts. However, we are very confident that the benefits of these changes will soon be evident.

“Our staff are hugely committed to this work and they share the view that it’s critical to make improvements as quickly as possible.

“Poor standards are not acceptable. The safety and welfare of children and young people is incredibly important to us all.”