Peterborough City Council child services’ targets struggle

THE director of children’s services for Peterborough City Council says he is being “utterly transparent” in a bid to improve the safety of vulnerable children in Peterborough.

Speaking at the creating opportunities and tackling inequalities scrutiny committee meeting at the town hall last night, John Richards, said he expected criticism of certain areas, which show they are not hitting every target each month, but said it was important to remain “open and honest”.

The city’s children’s services is currently under a Department of Education Notice to Improve for Safeguarding Services which came after Ofsted rated the council as ‘inadequate’ for safeguarding children – the lowest mark possible in 2010.

However, in March 2011 another unannounced inspection revealed there had been improvement and the service was no longer rated inadequate, and last night Mr Richards said, despite changes in some of their working practices and the fact more children were being taken into care in the city, he wanted to give a true snapshot of the situation.

He said: “Good progress is being made, we are sharing with the public, media and scrutiny committee the same data we are sending over to the government, most local authorities don’t do that, they would rather put in cumulative year-on-year totals but we wanted to show the picture now.

“The figures are already attracting criticism that some of our timescales have not been met, but timescales are not the be all and end all, and a lot of good work has gone in since March 2011. There has been a rise of 13 children in care compared to last July, an increase of five per cent, but this is a similar trend across the county,

“This is good news as I believe that the increase shows we are taking quick steps to put in place plans for vulnerable children in the city. We also have no children with cases over two years which was another key target and we are making good progress with referrals.”

However the report revealed that more than half of all initial assessments were not completed within seven days of referral, an issue put down to a change in process in May 2011 for managing social care referrals.

Mr Richards added: “These are now taken by three specialist workers through the Peterborough Direct Call Centre which we knew would impact on performance until the process is settled.”