Kirklees still failing children, says Ofsted

CHILDREN’S services in Kirklees are under fire again after the latest report from Ofsted said they have not improved enough.

The education watchdog released a scathing report in November last year when services for children in the district were rated “inadequate”.

Nine months on Ofsted have ruled that there is still plenty of work to be done.

In a letter sent to the interim director of Kirklees children’s services, Steve Walker, Ofsted said: “The local authority is making limited progress in improving services for children and families.”

This new report comes after the Department of Education (DfE) appointed Eleanor Brazil last year to help turn the department around.

Mrs Brazil is well known for saving failing council services – including helping Haringey Council following the Baby P scandal – and it was hoped she would improve Kirklees.

She is still in post and is waiting for her report to be released in the next few months – which could recommend that Kirklees loses control of its own social services.

The Ofsted letter to Kirklees officials said: “There is an increased understanding among senior leaders about what needs to improve for children and families in Kirklees.

“However, progress towards achieving the necessary improvements remains limited. Although there are pockets of discreet improvement in the quality of practice, this is not consistent.

“The pace of change is being hindered by workforce instability and high social work caseloads.

“Not all actions taken by senior managers to tackle drift and delay for children have been effective, and some children have been left in risky situations for too long.”

Ofsted go on to say that the majority of children were not getting the help they needed quickly enough, but despite that staff were seen as “child-focused and motivated to improve children’s experiences.”

Mr Walker said: “We welcome the latest letter from Ofsted and agree with their assessment that progress is being made in improving services for children and families.

“The inspectors’ view is that this progress is limited. This is not unexpected and reflects the changes in leadership that children’s services in Kirklees have experienced over the past year.

“It is really pleasing that Ofsted have recognised the commitment of our workforce and highlighted that they have a clear focus on children – this gives the service a strong foundation to build on.

“Ofsted have also highlighted areas of progress and improvement. 

“These include a good understanding of what needs to improve, a focus on the right areas, better working with partners, and a recognition that the local authority is committed to improvement and that we are doing all we can to recruit experienced, high-quality staff.

“As expected Ofsted have also identified areas for development. It is reassuring that these are all areas that we are already working hard to improve.”

He added: “Our absolute priority is to the children and young people of Kirklees and ensuring that they achieve the best possible outcomes.”

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