Kent children's services inquiry call from Lib Dems

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Calls have been made for a public inquiry into whether a crisis in Kent County Council's children's services could have been prevented.

An Ofsted inspection a year ago concluded children had been left at risk of significant harm by inadequate services in almost every area.

Liberal Democrat opposition leader Trudy Dean said the council should have acted sooner to address the problems.

The council said the achievements of social workers should be celebrated.

The latest Ofsted report found the authority had made significant improvements following the damning inspection last November.

Social workers were found to be under "intolerable pressure", with up to three times the number of caseloads they should have had.

'Such a shock'

Ms Dean said levels of staffing were at a dangerous level four years ago and action should have been taken then.

"Had we responded to the data that was coming through in 2007, we could have prevented the situation developing in which 3,000 children were placed at risk."

Jenny Whittle, the Conservative cabinet member for children's services, said the Ofsted report of November 2010 had come as a "shock".

"We had an external inspection in 2008 that gave all members of the county council the assurances that caseloads were manageable and children would be protected in Kent.

"That's why it was such a shock last year when we got a very different result from Ofsted."

Following last year's inspection, the council apologised and recruited a special team of 50 social workers at a cost of £2m to address the failings.

Ms Whittle added: "Let's celebrate the achievements that our social workers on the front line have achieved.

"We've now cleared through all those backlogs, filled our social worker posts and children are much safer in Kent."

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