FAILING children’s services in Kirklees have improved – but there’s still more work to be done.
An Ofsted report published this week says that since March last year “there has been steady progress in strengthening the foundations for sustainable service improvement.”
Whilst the authority is graded as still requiring improvement in four key areas, it is no longer rated inadequate, with inspector Lisa Summers reporting “no widespread or serious failures” that leave children at risk of harm.
The findings have been described as “an important milestone” for Kirklees, which, in November 2016, received a damning 38-page inspection report that led to government intervention. There are still areas to work on, according to inspectors, who said: “The local authority is not delivering good help, protection and care for all children, young people and families.”
The report highlighted a number of points that needed to improve, including “the quality of recording, assessments and child protection investigations so that children receive help at the earliest opportunity.”
However, council leader Shabir Pandor said he was pleased with the progress which has dragged the children’s services department out of special measures.
Coun Pandor said: “This is excellent news and I am grateful to Ofsted for their comments, which show they have seen stepped improvement.”
Mel Meggs, who was appointed as director of children’s services last December, said: “We are pleased that Ofsted have recognised the real progress that has been made across the board.
“This has been achieved by hard-working staff and committed partners and means we are in a strong position to continue our improvement programme.
“We will always protect and support and always
promote better outcomes to help children fulfil their potential.
“The Ofsted report also outlines a number of areas for further improvement, which is reflected in the judgement of ‘requires improvement to be good’.
“We are already making good progress with these changes and our ambition is to be judged outstanding in the next Ofsted inspection.”
Coun Viv Kendrick, cabinet member for children at Kirklees Council added: “Improvements have been made, but we must never be complacent and must never stop aiming to achieve the highest standards of care and support for those who need our help the most.”
Ofsted’s 2016 report said services for vulnerable children in Kirklees were “inadequate, due to serious widespread failures which result in some children not being protected or having their needs met”.
It revealed that the Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board raised the alarm about social work standards in August 2015, prompting then-chief executive Adrian Lythgo to launch an independent review.
A review of 226 cases found 10 per cent were of concern, with urgent action required to help some children. Since 2014 senior figures in the Children’s Services team have been replaced.
Children’s Services staff on Kirklees Council worked closely with West Yorkshire Police on its investigation into allegations of historic grooming and child sexual abuse in Huddersfield.
That investigation led to the conviction and jailing of 20 men at Leeds Crown Court last year.
Police have since made over 90 arrests mostly in the Dewsbury and Batley area in relation to cases of historic child sex abuse.