'Serious failings' found at Solihull Council children's services after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes murder

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'Serious and widespread failings' have been found in Solihull Council's children's services by Ofsted inspectors.

It follows the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 6, who was brutally murdered by his step-mother, Emma Tustin, in June 2020 at their home in Solihull. His dad, Thomas Hughes, was found guilty of manslaughter.

A national review published into Arthur's death last year found that some of his family members who expressed concerns were ignored by social services.

In the report, inspectors Ofsted said some children in Solihull have experienced significant harm as a result of children's services not responding quickly enough.

"Children in Solihull are not getting the help they need at the right time. When there is a concern that a child is at risk of harm, the response is too slow.

"Too many children in need of help and protection are subject to repeat intervention and plans."

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, 6, who was brutally murdered by his step-mother, Emma Tustin, in June 2020 at their home in Solihull. Credit: West Midlands Police

The report adds: "For too many children, previous interventions had not led to an improved outcome. A delay in response had led to some children experiencing significant harm.

"There are significant delays in children achieving the security of permanence, sometimes for several years, due to a lack of understanding and focus. The service for care leavers has declined significantly since 2019 and care leavers told inspectors of their frustration with the lack of support they receive."

The report criticised the "insufficient management oversight and scrutiny" which has lead to children experiencing significant delay before action is taken to make them safer.

"Strategic leaders and partners have overseen this decline in services to vulnerable children and their families," it said.

The report states Solihull Council "did not have an accurate understanding of the poor quality of practice and experiences of children".

It continues: "The safeguarding partnership and the improvement board have not provided sufficient scrutiny and challenge and the pace of change in response to the serious failings identified in the JTAI and national panel recommendations has been too slow.

"Leadership and partnership arrangements have not demonstrated an ability to develop a shared vision and strategy to make the required changes.

"Instability in the workforce at all levels has had a significant impact, resulting in frequent changes of workers, inconsistent planning and drift and delay for children.

"A significant number of cases remain unallocated or are held on duty or with managers. This has led to some children being harmed and others to remain at risk."

Emma Tustin (left) and her partner Thomas Hughes were found guilty of killing Arthur Labinjo-Hughes Credit: West Midlands Police

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, says a new leadership team is in place in children's services and it has recruited more social workers.

Here's the council leader's full response to the findings of the Ofsted report:

“We accept the findings of the Ofsted report relating to the inspection carried out in November.  Although we are very disappointed at the grading, we are grateful to the inspection team for the thoroughness and detail put into their work, which will help us to make the necessary improvements.

“This Council is fully committed to making the necessary changes to children’s services and we understand what we need to do to improve and realise that we need to do this at greater speed than we are already doing.

“An Improvement Board was put in place last year made up of experts and a good representation from the agencies involved, including in particular the police, NHS, and Council, and improvements have already been made over the last 12 months. However, we are updating our improvement plan to ensure it addresses the things that Ofsted have found.

“A new leadership team is in place in children’s services. We have recruited more social workers to meet the rising demand from people contacting us with concerns about children, and this has provided us with the capacity to ensure there is a dedicated social worker for all the children that are assessed as needing one. This will help us to meet the continuing increase in demands for our services.

“Along with my fellow councillors, we have agreed to continue to invest significantly in children’s services over the coming years, as a priority for the Council.

“It is fair to say we have been under an unprecedented level of scrutiny over the last 12 months, culminating with the appointment of Sir Alan Wood, the Commissioner appointed by the Secretary of State, who has been working with us since November.

“We are doing our utmost to support Sir Alan in his review of the leadership across the three safeguarding partners – police, health and local authority – which is necessary to ensure we have the most effective way of securing and sustaining improvement in Solihull. Sir Alan will present his findings to the Secretary of State later this month and outline his recommendations."