At risk Birmingham children are being let down says report

CHILDREN at the highest risk of sexual and physical abuse continue to be let down by Birmingham City Council’s failing social services, a highly-critical government report has concluded.

Ofsted inspectors have carried out a new inspection and branded social workers and management inadequate and found “significant weaknesses” in child protection arrangements.

In a blistering condemnation following the two-week inspection last month, services for safeguarding children were given the lowest possible Ofsted ranking – not meeting minimum requirements.

The findings will be a bitter blow to city children’s social services, which has been working under a government improvement order for 16 months.

A Serious Case Review into the death of Khyra Ishaq, the seven-year-old Handsworth girl starved to death by her mother and stepfather under the noses of Birmingham social services and education officials in 2008, is due to be published next month.

A new senior management team has been put in place under Children’s Social Care Director Colin Tucker, and council leaders had hoped Ofsted would find dramatic improvement.

But Inspectors said: “Medium-term plans to address some concerns, although important, do not address the serious deficiencies in the quality of safeguarding and protection services which are longstanding, very evident and in need of immediate action.”

The report was released just two weeks after the council announced that Mr Tucker’s boss, Children’s Strategic Director, Tony Howell, would be taking early retirement. He plans to leave in January, when he will be 60.

The Ofsted report says social services leadership and management and efforts to ensure safe levels of staffing in social care remain inadequate.

It says: “Critical shortcomings, particularly within children’s social care and health, mean that not all children are being safeguarded and protected.

“Critical deficiencies remain in front line work with children and young people despite significant attempts to deliver improvements.

“The effectiveness of services in Birmingham to ensure that children and young people are safe is inadequate because of significant weakness in child protection arrangements.”

And while the Inspectors pointed to some good initiatives and pockets of improvement, the overall conclusion was of “insufficient focus on the critical core business of protecting children and young people at the highest risk”.

Failings identified by Ofsted include:

* A lack of accurate information means that managers don’t know whether children on protection plans are visited regularly.
* Managers are largely unaware of the quality of the service.
* Child protection plans are not being fully implemented and referrals are not being followed up.

Ofsted was not convinced about the future, adding that “serious deficiencies” in management meant that capacity for improvement was inadequate. Coun Len Clark (Con, Quinton), executive member for children’s social care, insisted the Inspectors had found some evidence of improvement.

However, he added: “We know we are not good enough yet, we know more needs to be done and we know what we have to do to improve.

“But there is no quick-fix solution to the problems faced in an authority the size of Birmingham.”


A shocking 19 children have died of abuse or neglect in Birmingham in the past six years – with 16 of them known to social workers.

A further three youngsters suffered serious injuries that could have resulted in death.

As well as Khyra Ishaq, cases include:

His parents were found not guilty of manslaughter by gross neglect, but it was revealed that the year before social services had ignored requests by police to take him into care following a fire at the family home which resulted in his parents being convicted of child cruelty.

Alarm bells

Alarm bells began to ring for Birmingham City Council in December 2008 when Ofsted inspectors declared that services for vulnerable children were inadequate and in need of sharp improvement.

Nineteen months later, the watchdog body has detected little in the way of improvement and made another must-do-better plea.

In February last year the Government moved to place Birmingham children’s social services under a formal improvement order.

Council leaders were told to make “robust and sustained” improvements – an order given greater significance by the disclosure that at least 15 children, many known to social services, had died of abuse or neglect in Birmingham since 2005.

The council’s ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition responded by appointing new senior social care managers and by ordering a “warts and all” report into what had gone wrong. The Who Cares? report, by Tory councillor Len Clark, identified “systemic failure” in children’s services and called for wholesale reform.