Somerset County Council child protection plans 'inadequate'

Somerset County Council office building A child protection plan is made when a child is judged to be at risk of significant harm

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More than a third of Somerset County Council's child protection plans are inadequate, a review has found.

Government inspectors ordered a review of 453 child protection plans after the council was given the lowest rating for its child protection work by Ofsted.

Of those audited, 170 were inadequate, with 250 found to be adequate or above.

The council said all inadequate cases will be re-audited to make sure recommendations for these children have been complied with.

The plans are made for children identified as being at risk of harm and aim to protect the most vulnerable children in society.

Following an unannounced inspection in the summer, Ofsted inspectors told the social services department to review its child protection plans including cases that have been closed in the last three months.

'Very low base'

That work will be discussed at an audit committee meeting on Friday.

Analysis

When Ofsted did an unannounced inspection of Somerset County Council's child protection services last June, the verdict was "inadequate" across the board.

But this wasn't the start of the story. The council had already brought in interim director of children's services Peter Lewis in February 2013 - the man appointed by the government to sort out Haringey children's services after the Baby P case.

He says he's never left a job half done, and there's no chance of further government intervention in Somerset, "not on my watch".

Peter Lewis, interim director of children's services, said: "We have been doing some work anyway that has moved us on from the majority being inadequate to the majority being adequate, and that is not to say that that job is finished yet, not by a long stretch, but it is forward and positive movement.

"We started last summer with a very, very low base, and we've had to work hard to build up from that, what the audit committee will see is that there has been that movement."

Ofsted inspectors found that in some cases the child protection plans were being closed too soon and that "very few" plans were sufficiently specific.

Fulfil obligations

In November, the Department for Communities and Local Government also issued children's services with an Improvement Notice.

This gave the council a target of 75% of cases being judged adequate or better through assessment audits.

The review found 170 (37.5%) child protection plans were inadequate, 190 cases (41.9%) were adequate, 58 (12.8%) were good, 2 cases (0.4%) were outstanding.

Thirty-three cases (7.2%) were ungraded.

Mr Lewis said they expect to have fulfilled all the obligations of the notice within about 12 or 15 months.

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