Experts: Care still not good enough

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The child-care crisis in Calderdale is reflected in the service’s latest Ofsted report.

The Government watchdog says the service is not good enough and performs poorly.

The report also says serious weaknesses remain in the way the council keeps young people safe from harm.

The verdict comes just days after director Janet Donaldson was suspended from her £144,000-a-year post and the head of children’s social care Pixley Clarke left.

Stuart Smith has now taken over as temporary director.

Councillors and officials have been struggling for two years to turn around the department’s fortunes.

A review in October showed children were safer than before and the council was heading in the right direction.

But the latest Ofsted confirms there is still a long way to go.

Ofsted manager Juliet Winstanley said: “There are serious weaknesses in services to safeguard young people and this continues to be the major area of development.”

She has called for improvements to the quality of referrals from partner agencies; aspects of management in the first -response service and has highlighted inconsistent recording, including recording management decisions.

The timeliness of completing assessments and the frequency of staff supervision have also been criticised.

Apart from safeguarding, a majority of early years and child-care provision is good or better, according to the inspector.

But five of the seven children’s centres visited were found to be only adequate and the quality of children’s homes is variable.

In 2010 all four local authority children’s homes were good but this year, although one home is now outstanding, two were adequate at an earlier point in the year and are now good again and one remains adequate.

“At the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage, the proportion of children from low-income families achieving a good level of development is below the national average and that of similar areas.”

Mr Smith said: “The safety and well-being of children is a top priority and Calderdale Council is continuing to work with its partners to bring about sustained improvement.”

l The number of complaints about children’s social care rose in the first six months of this year, from 57 to 88.