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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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First Social Care Report heralds more support for struggling local authorities

Monday, November 4, 2013

As Chair of the Child Protection All-Party Parliamentary Group, and a former social work professional herself, Meg attended the launch of the first Social Care Annual report 2012/12 her comments below.

Ofsted recently launched their first report focusing exclusively on children’s social care the Social Care Annual Report 2012/13. Much of the report focuses on child protection services, as they carry the greatest responsibility for the children most at risk from neglect, abuse, serious injury and death. Ofsted’s official title is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, and they regulate and inspect schools, child care and children’s social care services.

The report noted that in the UK, despite some recent worrying high profile cases, child homicides figures have shown a slight decline over the last 35 years - the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) stating that the UK has a moderately low level of deaths.

Of the local authority child protection services that have been inspected only 3% were judged to be outstanding, with 40% good, 43% adequate and 13% inadequate. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector, made clear that from this year they will be taking the view that adequate is not good enough, and authorities that achieve only that standard will be kept under review. He indicated that there is to be a shift from ‘inspection only’ to inspection followed by ongoing support for all those authorities whose child protection services are not judged good or outstanding.

He went on to say that across the country there are 20 local authorities where children’s safeguarding is unacceptably poor, and in particular he highlighted the inadequacy of Birmingham’s services over a number of years. He recited a range of concerns, including child mortality rates worse than Cuba. He questioned how this could happen in Britain today, suggesting that Ofsted are seriously looking at whether Birmingham is too big to be managed properly as one organisation given its level of need.

The new head of Social Care, Debbie Jones, herself a former Director of children’s services, made clear that they want to move beyond blame to achieve significant improvements in services. She recognized the pressures experienced by some local authorities given the level of cuts they have faced. She confirmed that they are committed to supporting improvement through the promotion of good practice and using the experience of good and outstanding authorities.

Another key aspect from the report was the importance of other services to achieving good outcomes for children, and Local Safeguarding Boards were highlighted in bringing all local agencies together, however their current effectiveness was questioned. Ofsted indicated the suspension of multi-agency inspections in April this year was not a move away from doing them but to allow the better development of the framework which would start in April 2015. While clearly it is crucial to get the system right, given the importance of other agencies involvement this seems to be a long delay.

Progress is being made in services for looked after children, and children’s homes are responding well to the greater focus in education. However the planning for transition to adult life is still poor in many homes.

Worryingly Ofsted still heard from many children that social workers did not talk to them sufficiently and that their views and feelings were not always taken into account. Recent child deaths have highlighted this issue once again and it is clear that this is still not being addressed sufficiently in social work training.

An approach that combines rigour with support for failing local authorities is a positive step forward, with an explicit recognition that change in itself can cause the focus on children to be lost. Of the 17 inadequate authorities, 11 had recently had a change in the Director of children’s services. However achieving improvements at a time of reducing resources will be difficult.

I warmly welcome the production of a separate social care report by Ofsted. As a former social work professional I have long been concerned that social care would come a poor second to the much bigger role that Ofsted has in schools. The Child Protection All-Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster, which I Chair, will be meeting key people from Ofsted to discuss the report in detail in the next few weeks.

 

Meg Munn MP

To read the Social Care Annual Report 2012/13 visit:

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/social-care-annual-report-201213


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