Ofsted has today (20 July 2015) published a report into Sunderland City Council’s Children’s Services and Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) following an inspection carried out in May this year. The report found the council to be inadequate across a range of services including child protection, adoption, and children in care.
The inspection pointed to corporate failure by senior leaders and managers that leaves children and young people potentially at risk. During the inspection, 21 children’s cases were referred back to the local authority by inspectors to request that action be taken to ensure children’s needs were met. This is one out of every ten children’s cases looked at by inspectors.
Following the inspection, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, wrote to Secretary of State Nicky Morgan to express his concern over the inspection findings and to recommend remedial action be taken at the earliest opportunity.
An Ofsted spokesperson said:
Today’s report highlights widespread and serious failings in Sunderland City Council’s services for children and young people. As a result, children are potentially at risk of harm.
Inspectors identified serious weaknesses in basic child protection practice and oversight of services for care leavers, alongside poor leadership at all levels. In addition, the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) is failing in its statutory duty to effectively monitor how well local agencies are safeguarding the welfare of children.
Such was his concern, Sir Michael wrote to the Secretary of State to highlight the serious weaknesses in care and protection given to vulnerable children in the area, and to request that swift remedial action be taken.
Examples of serious weaknesses in basic child protection practice in the report include:
high caseloads - meaning that workers are unable to undertake key tasks to provide effective support to children
a high number of unallocated cases where the extent and seriousness of the issues affecting children are not known
services for children missing from home, care, education or at risk of child sexual exploitation are insufficient and poorly co-ordinated
particularly poor services for care leavers, which mean that some care leavers are living in unsatisfactory and sometimes unsafe circumstances without adequate help or support
Sir Michael will also be writing to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to express his concerns over the contribution of Northumbria Police to child protection and safeguarding in Sunderland.
Inspectors found that information sharing between police and children’s services is poor, and that police representatives do not consistently attend core group meetings and child protection conferences.