Children in council care ’still at risk’

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ALARM bells are ringing again over Calderdale Council’s approach to keeping children safe from harm.

This time, it is youngsters in council-run children’s homes who could be at risk.

Auditors have warned that inappropriate staffing levels could pose “a risk to residents’ safeguarding.”

The statements of purpose for each of the four homes have not been kept up to date and neither have they been approved by councillors.

Worryingly, the actual number of staff assigned to each home is not in line with the requirements of the statement and at a time of budget tightening the auditors warn of “possible inappropriate spending.”

They raised similar concerns last year but according to a report to councillors, their recommendations were not implemented.

As a result, their latest staffing review describes the situation in the homes as “weak”.

A year ago the way the council looks after children at risk of harm and neglect was branded inadequate by Ofsted and although there are now more permanent qualified staff, better working arrangements and assessment processes, and they are managing to cope with an increasing workload, safeguarding is still not up to scratch.

But the service is on course to having an official Notice to Improve removed before March next year.

Chairman Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said the auditors were reflecting what could happen “in an extreme situation.”

The committee asked for an update in six months.