Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham Children's Services 'inadequate' says Ofsted

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Media captionKeanu Williams, two, died in 2011 after being found with 37 injuries

Serious failures in Birmingham's Children's Services are continuing to leave young people at risk, Ofsted has found.

Over three months, the cases of 145 children were closed due to a lack of social workers, a report by the watchdog said.

The department has been rated inadequate since 2008.

Birmingham City Council said it "accepted and welcomed" the report and was working to address the issues.

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Media captionProf Julian Le Grand: Birmingham Children's Services in "spiral of decline"

The watchdog said there was not enough focus on children who need help and the most vulnerable children "continue to be failed".

It cited "long-standing" failures and "inadequate" structures for supporting social workers.

It did find, however, that the most serious cases involving at-risk children were dealt with quickly, and there had been "considerable effort" to improve the low social worker employment rate.

The report, released on Friday, is the latest in a string of inspections to criticise the department.

In March, Lord Warner was appointed as a special commissioner, reporting to the government, but working with the council to improve services for vulnerable children.

It followed concerns the department might be taken over directly by the government.

The latest inspection, which took place in March and April, identified a number of "serious weaknesses" in the authority's social care provision for young people.

'Entrenched failures'

In December, the council announced a £10m investment in children's services, despite wide-ranging cuts across the rest of the local authority.

The funding included 40 new social worker posts, although on 8 May the authority revealed more than 25% of all permanent frontline posts remained unfilled due to ongoing recruitment problems. Agency staff have been covering many of those positions.

Despite plans to improve safeguarding, Ofsted said there was a "significant an unaccountable delay" in implementing them.

"The legacy of poor management and practice in Birmingham Children's Services remain," Ofsted said.

"These failures have become so entrenched that despite recent efforts to improve management practice and outcomes the progress being made to date is too slow and has had little or no impact."

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Image caption Lord Warner said a "good start" had been made on improvements

But inspectors also said staff reported better morale and reduced caseloads.

Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said the council had expected the inadequate rating and had been "very open" about the state of children's services in the city.

"The report's details build on the issues we had recognised ourselves as inadequate practice and which we shared with Ofsted on their arrival," she said.

Head of children's services Peter Hay said the council accepted the issues facing it and had already begun to address them.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said there would be no "knee-jerk" response, and instead was focusing on "breaking the cycle" of failure.

Lord Warner said there had been a "good start" on improvements, but said there was "a long way to go".

In a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove, he said a three-year plan outlining a schedule for improvements would be presented to the Department for Education next month.

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