Ofsted rates nine children’s services as ‘poor’

Children’s services in nine local authority areas, including Haringey where Baby Peter was killed, have been rated as “poor” in a report by Ofsted.

The inspectorate’s annual ratings of 152 English authorities show 10 provide “excellent” services and 93 “good”.

The other 40 authorities are deemed to be adequate on services including child protection, childcare, schools, social care, learning and skills.

Ministers said interventions had taken place at authorities rated as poor.

The number of underperforming children’s services has increased from the eight identified last year.

‘Raised expectations’

As well as Haringey, in north London, the others rated as poor are Birmingham, Cornwall, Doncaster, Essex, Leeds, Rotherham, Warrington and Wokingham.

Blackburn with Darwen, Camden, City of London, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lewisham, Richmond-upon-Thames, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and York are all rated as excellent.

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert said Ofsted had increased its expectations for what local authorities should deliver.

“We are considering a wider range of services and outcomes for children and young people, and in that sense we are being more demanding,” she said.
It is right that the bar has been raised, and we will continue to take action until all children’s services are being delivered to an acceptable level
Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo

“We are also using more first-hand inspection evidence, gathered by a range of highly knowledgeable and experienced inspectors looking at services and settings, from schools and childcare, to services for vulnerable children, and those for young people in colleges and sixth forms.”

Ofsted also makes the point that services can vary within the overall ratings, so “excellent” does not mean universally so – nor does performing poorly.

Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo said the report showed the picture was generally positive but there was no room for complacency.

“It is right that the bar has been raised, and we will continue to take action until all children’s services are being delivered to an acceptable level,” she said.

“That’s why we have already intervened in every one of the nine local authorities identified as performing poorly.”

Ofsted’s findings are published a day after an independent report said doctors at a clinic that failed to spot Baby Peter Connelly had a broken back, two days before he died in 2007, had been under an “excessive workload”.

Peter was known to social services in Haringey.

Birmingham City Council said it was disappointed that Ofsted had not shifted from the “inadequate” judgement initially delivered last year on its ability to safeguard children.

‘Simplistic approach’

Birmingham’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, Cllr Les Lawrence, said: “We believe this is unfair.

“We have not had a full inspection in 2009 and this fails to take account of the tremendous strides we have made in the last year.

Richard Hubbard, from Cornwall children’s services, outlines some of the problems

“It seems to be more a product of Ofsted’s new way of assessing services than a balanced reflection of the successes and challenges we face in Birmingham.”

The president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Kim Bromley-Derry, said inspection and regulation provided an opportunity for the public to scrutinise the services that they received and hold people to account.

But his members had experienced duplicated fieldwork and a lack of communication between inspectorates.

“The approach to grading children’s services has been simplistic,” he said.