Damning report into failing children’s services at Doncaster Council

Ofsted Logo
Ofsted Logo

SHOCKING details of “inadequate” services at Doncaster Council’s children’s service have been revealed in a report published today.

Government inspectors have said that vulnerable children in the borough have experienced or were put at risk of “significant harm”.

They awarded the lowest possible rating for the department’s effectiveness, leadership and governance and quality of practice.

The authority has admitted that there are “no excuses” and there is a “considerable” amount of work which needs to be done to improve the service.

Chris Pratt, director of the council’s children’s services said: “There has been progress but not as quickly as it needs to be. Ofsted say there are features of the past problems still present. “There are far too many children that we are not working with in the way we should and it’s not good enough.”

Ofsted inspectors, who visited the department for a ten-day unannounced inspection in October, repeated some of the major problems that were highlighted when the government sent in a team of experts in 2009.

In the report, lead inspector Mary Candlin said: “In too many cases professional practice was poor, management oversight ineffective and risk to children not identified or progressed. Consequently, Doncaster cannot be confident that all children known to the children and young people’s services are safe.”

Below is a summary of some of Ofsted’s findings:

• A total of 244 cases of children in need who had not been allocated proper care and a test sample of these were found to be at “potential risk” of or had experienced serious harm

• Doncaster Safeguarding Children’s Board has failed to provide the necessary leadership and scrutiny

• There are “systematic and unacceptable” delays in ensuring children are allocated a social worker and, therefore, the authority cannot be confident that their needs are being met or protected

• High social worker caseloads means they are not able to develop “meaningful and effective” relationships with families

• Management oversight is “inconsistent” and “lacks rigour” which means children at risk are not always identified

• At times, there are significant gaps in social workers visiting families which prevents them from making an accurate assessment

• A significant increase in referrals in the past 12 months has significantly weakened services, leaving a significant number of children at risk

• There has been “insufficient management oversight” which has led to a failure to recognise those children which are in need

• Though the authority has a “clear vision” for change, this is not converted well enough into “frontline practice”

• Too many workers have high caseloads and some managers are stretched

• There are long-standing recruitment problems and high levels of sickness among frontline workers which has impeded consistency in the department