Education & Family

Ofsted finds vulnerable children's views 'overlooked'

girl
Image caption Ofsted analysed 67 serious case reviews, which are carried out when serious abuse is uncovered

Social workers and other professionals in England must do more to listen to the views of vulnerable children, Ofsted inspectors say.

The watchdog says analysis of serious case reviews (SCRs) showed too many children were not properly listened to.

Ofsted found a focus on the parent's need for support often meant the child's right to protection was lost.

Professionals were also found to have failed to listen to adults who tried to raise concerns on behalf of a child.

The review of 67 SCRs - which are carried out by local safeguarding children boards when a child dies or abuse or neglect is known or suspected - found the child was sometimes not seen by the professionals involved.

In other cases, where the child was seen, they were not asked about their views and feelings.

The Ofsted research found children sometimes needed to be taken away from their carers in order to be free to express themselves.

It cited one case where children in a family had suffered from neglect and physical and sexual abuse over many years, but only spoke out when removed from the home environment.

The report found educating children at home could sometimes be used as a means of concealing abuse.

In another case two girls were sexually abused by their father. The two sisters and two other siblings had been withdrawn from school to be home educated.

"It was clear that the children had been withdrawn from school to avoid the scrutiny of the authorities," it said.

Adult voices

Inspectors also raised concerns about cases where an adult, for example a parent, grandparent or neighbour, had raised concerns about a child's welfare, but were not taken seriously enough.

One case involved a separated couple, where the father regularly told children's services and the police that the mother's new partner was a registered sex offender and had unrestricted access to the children.

The tendency by agencies to overlook the role of fathers, male partners and other men living within families was also a "common theme" in the reviews, the report said.

Eight of the SCRs said it needed to be easier for members of the public to speak up on behalf of children when they had serious concerns.

In some instances, where a parent committed a serious act against a child, the reviews commented that "no concerns" had been reported by the public even though people had witnessed "bizarre" behaviour by the parent.

White British

Sixty-five of the 67 SCRs which were evaluated between April and September last year concerned 93 children, 39 of whom died and 54 of whom were involved in serious incidents. The remaining two cases focused on adult perpetrators.

Of the 93 children, 70 were known to social services at the time of the incident. Others had been known previously.

The ethnicity of most of the children affected - 73 out of 93 - was white British, nine were black African, black Caribbean or identified as "black other" and eight were mixed race.

One child was an Afghan national, and in two cases the child's ethnicity was not recorded. None of the children were of Asian heritage.

Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert said: "It is shocking to see that too often children in vulnerable situations are not heard by those who should be looking out for their interests.

"That is why this report's focus on listening to children is so important.

"The report shares valuable lessons that can help protect children and prevent such tragic incidents."

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