LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have written to the Chair of Gloucestershire County Council requesting that an extraordinary meeting be held after a damning Ofsted report was published today rating the county’s children’s services as ‘inadequate’.
The forty-one page report conducted between 27 February and 23 March 2017 found "serious and widespread failures for children in need of help and protection" and "serious concerns about the integrity of the current senior leadership team".
The overall conclusion by Ofsted that Children’s services in Gloucestershire are 'inadequate’ came from examining the following areas:
Children who need help and protection – Inadequate
Children looked after and achieving permanence – Requires improvement
Adoption performance – Good
Experiences and progress of care leavers – Requires improvement
- Leadership, management and governance – Inadequate.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Gloucestershire County Council, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) says the report is shocking and a massive blow to those who are responsible for the protection of children:
"This is an utterly damning report on the state of local children’s services in Gloucestershire. It is a story of failure.
"Ofsted has graded two out of five areas as ‘inadequate’ and another two areas as 'requires improvement'. It is alarming that the report states that "senior leaders have not sufficiently prioritised or improved the quality of social work practice since services for children in need of help and protection were judged inadequate in 2011, and the quality of services to children and families has now deteriorated significantly".
"The report goes on to say that "management oversight is inadequate...", that there are "significant weaknesses in social work practice" and that "children in need and child protection plans are not sufficiently clear or robust."
“We have seen several ‘inadequate’ inspection reports across the country where there have been calls for resignations and requests made to establish independent peer review boards.
"Here, we know that heads are already rolling as a result of this report with the sudden resignation of one and the quick retirement of another senior officer within the department. It is not surprising as this is a truly awful and deeply concerning report. The Council’s leadership now need to consider their own positions.
“Approximately 124,799 children and young people under the age of 18 years live in Gloucestershire. At 28th February 2017, 7,319 children had been identified as needing specialist children's services, and 604 children are being looked after by this local authority, these children deserve better.
"We have therefore today written to the Chair of the Council calling for a special meeting of elected members to discuss the findings of this report in detail and to hear Ofsted's recommendations to tackle the serious failings that have been identified in this report. The Council’s leaders need to explain how this has happened under their watch."
The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Children & Families, Cllr. Joe Harris (Cirencester Park) added:
"The children and families most in need of help and support have been severely let down by this Conservative Council.
"If this Ofsted report had gone public prior to the county council elections in May, I am confident that the results would have been entirely different and we would not now been under a Tory-controlled administration.
"We strongly urge the Chair of Council to support our calls for a special meeting to take place as soon as practically possible. It is evident from today's report that there needs to be an urgent and thorough review of the service and immediate action taken to improve these serious problems.”