Saturday, July 04, 2009

Baby P council 'limited progress'

The council at the centre of the Baby P case has made only limited progress in improving its children's social care services, Ofsted inspectors say.

They say Haringey in north London has made good progress in some areas such as clearing a backlog of cases.

But it still does not have enough competent staff and managers and as a result young people are "not yet consistently safeguarded".

Children's Secretary Ed Balls has said he wants another report by January.

Baby P - Peter - died in August 2007, aged 17 months, with more than 50 injuries, despite being on Haringey's child protection register.

Peter's 27-year-old mother was given an indefinite sentence with a minimum term of five years at the Old Bailey in May after pleading guilty to causing or allowing her son's death.

Her boyfriend, aged 32, was given a 12-year sentence for his role in Peter's death. He was also jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years for the rape of a two-year-old girl. He is appealing.

The head of the children's services in Haringey was sacked, as were a social worker and three managers.


A new children's services director was appointed in January.

Ofsted's re-inspection report said the council and its partners had made good progress in tackling the backlog of some 400 unallocated cases that had been identified at that time.

But work on clearing the backlog threw up "a number of serious concerns about the management of referrals".

These included over-stretched staff with high caseloads and a lack of competence and confidence in decision-making.

Eight cases out of 57 that the inspection team examined - which had been judged low priority by the council - raised "serious safeguarding concerns".

After reviewing them the council agreed "urgent and significant action" should be taken in each case.

Relationships between key agencies were poor, with a lack of trust compounded by frequent staff changes and "inadequate communication, sometimes perceived to be obstructive", the report said.

"Despite persistent and concerted action, significant shortcomings in staffing and in the capability of some managers and social workers have restricted the rate of progress and children and young people are not yet consistently safeguarded," the report said.

There was more open communication between front-line workers and senior managers.

But the service was failing to make enough impact "because of continuing high vacancy levels among social work staff and continuing concerns about the quality of aspects of front-line management in social care".


The report is on a joint inspection by Ofsted, the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Care Quality Commission.

It said police had taken robust steps to improve their monitoring of cases - but this was still inconsistent.

"Capacity to improve within the council and across the partnership is limited overall," it concluded.

"The time available to tackle a challenging agenda for change has been short and progress has been hampered by severe capacity limitations."

In a letter to to the council leader, Mr Balls said the report made it clear decisive action was being taken in dealing with underperforming staff and Haringey must build on this.

He had asked for a further Ofsted report by next January and would decide then whether any further action was needed to keep children safe.

Shadow children's minister Tim Loughton said Ed Balls had promised the very best child protection in Haringey, but six months further into his watch barely any progress had been made.

"We all know Haringey has a mountain to climb, but it has barely left base camp," he said.

"It is unacceptable that nearly two years after Baby Peter's death, inspectors should find that not all children are adequately safeguarded."

The government must take its share of the blame for having introduced new bureaucracy that was "shackling social workers to their desks when they should be out on the beat".

Also watch video report here:

Source: BBC

No comments: