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'Serious failures' left vulnerable children at risk

Children's services in Gloucestershire have been rated 'inadequate'. Credit: PA Images

'Serious and widespread failures' left vulnerable children in Gloucestershire at risk, a report has found.

The report following an inspection by Ofsted into Children's Services has raised serious concerns about management at Gloucestershire County Council which left children 'at risk of significant harm for too long'.

The inspectors rated Children's Services as 'inadequate' and noted that, since the last rating of 'inadequate' in 2011, 'quality of services to children and families has now deteriorated significantly'.

The way children's care and services were managed raised particular concerns for inspectors who said a lack of management oversight meant weaknesses in social work and ongoing risks to children were not identified.

The inspection - which took place between February 27 and March 23 - also illuminates a culture of fear where staff felt vulnerable, unsupported by senior managers and afraid of challenging or exposing poor practice.

The integrity of the senior leadership team has also been called into question after inspectors found key differences in the information they were provided.

OFSTED REPORT - KEY FINDINGS

  • Children who need help and protection - Inadequate
  • Children looked after and achieving permanence - Requires Improvement
  • Adoption performance – Good
  • · Experiences and progress of care leavers – Requires improvement
  • Leadership, management and governance - Inadequate
Front page of the Ofsted report. Credit: Ofsted

The Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council Pete Bungard said the leadership team for Children's Services had been immediately replaced and fundamental changes had been made. He said:

I am sorry that we have not supported our children and their families as quickly as we should have done.

Immediate action has been taken. We have changed the leadership of our children’s services and are making fundamental changes to the way it works.

We have brought in some of the country’s top social work specialists to lead our 500 dedicated, passionate and committed social care and support staff. There are some areas of good practice that have been recognised: our record on adoption and fostering, the commitment of individual social workers to their children, our young ambassadors programme and our work with homeless young people.

We must build on our track record in these areas to ensure all of the support we provide to children and young people is the best it can be."

– Pete Bungard, Chief Executive, Gloucestershire County Council