Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore (Cons) has reacted to the findings of the most recent Ofsted monitoring inspection of Bradford Council’s children’s services.
The visit was undertaken as part of the regular monitoring process placed on the local authority’s children’s services after Bradford Council was judged inadequate in 2018.
The findings highlight a number of concerns regarding the Council’s handling of children’s services. An inconsistent level of oversight from the management of Bradford Council is found to be reducing the overall service offered to vulnerable children.
As a result of this poor management, children at risk of exploitation are not being properly assessed by the Council.
The inspection found that factors such as the child’s history, previous social worker involvement and wider family impact and influence are not being properly understood during exploitation risk assessments.
As such, the effectiveness of “enabling an understanding of the full range of children’s risks and vulnerabilities” is identified as being significantly weakened.
Inspectors found that there continues to be “inconsistent management oversight” of the process of identifying children at risk. This means that social workers and frontline staff are unable to follow through on plans to identify the needs of vulnerable children.
Many children at risk of exploitation also continue to experience risks in relation to their home circumstances, such as domestic abuse or parental substance abuse.
More generally, social workers are not being managed in a way that ensures they are equipped to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Ofsted found they do not receive the direction or necessary training they need. This training was recommended as part of an action plan which followed a child safeguarding review released last July.
Bradford Council’s Children’s Services have been operating under special measures since 2018. Earlier this year, the government stripped Bradford Council of responsibility of children’s services due to a failure of leadership. The process is now underway to create a separate trust which will take responsibility.
Robbie Moore MP said: “The findings of the Ofsted inspection are extremely concerning, yet I am afraid to say they will not come as a shock to anyone. Bradford Council’s Children’s Services are not fit for purpose.
“They have failed to protect vulnerable children time after time, not least from horrendous crimes such as Child Sexual Exploitation. What is clear from this inspection is that the management of children’s services are simply not up to the job of ensuring vulnerable children are protected.
“A lack of oversight, leadership and attention to children’s vulnerabilities are all given as reasons for how they are failing children across our area.
“Bradford Council Children’s Services have been operating under special measures since 2018.
“Earlier this year, the government stepped in and took the decision to strip Bradford Council of having the responsibility of children’s services altogether, with a new trust structure now in the process of being set up.
“There are many dedicated social workers in the Bradford District, but what this inspection finds, is that they are not being given the support and training which is necessary to allow them to do their job to the best of their ability. This inspection represents a clear failing from the very top of Bradford Council.
“They are failing vulnerable children across the district, and as such are failing in the most important responsibility a Council can have. This Ofsted report demonstrates why an urgent change in leadership and direction of Bradford Council is required.”
Cllr Sue Duffy, portfolio holder for children and families, said: “Protecting vulnerable young people is our top priority. It is a welcome outcome for all the partners involved to know that our multi-agency hub is on the right track and that Ofsted recognises the fact that it is making a difference in helping to protect young people.
“We know there is much more to do. The visit from Ofsted also found that our social work practice in some areas still needs to improve, though Ofsted acknowledged that they spoke with some highly committed and resilient social workers during their visit.
“Ofsted recognise that high turnover of staff is a barrier to sustained improvement but that we have a recruitment campaign underway and have launched our academy for newly qualified social workers. We’re confident that our new children’s company will also provide the impetus to deliver these improvements at pace.”