Calderdale Council’s children’s services are rated as ‘inadequate’ again

Sunshine on Halifax Town Hall, with blue sky above.
Sunshine on Halifax Town Hall, with blue sky above.
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Council chiefs were left shocked and devastated after Ofsted again ruled the provision of children’s protection services in Calderdale is still ‘inadequate’.

The service was inspected by Ofsted in December 2012 and found to be inadequate, as reported in the Courier, but a follow-up inspection last month failed to improve the rating from Ofsted inspectors.

They inspect under three key areas: quality of practice; leadership and governance; effectiveness of the help and protection provided to children, young people, families and carers. Last December it was quality of practice that let Calderdale Council down and the same is true this time with a ‘limiting judgment’ meaning that all areas are then judged as inadequate.

Ofsted inspectors were particularly critical of the work of the Early Intake Team - which deals with the initial contact from people reporting issues regarding children - who were overworked.

Inspectors also said social workers failed to keep appropriate records of cases.

They also questioned the work of the safeguarding board which they said needed “to ensure that it robustly oversees the quality of work of its partner agencies and that practice is safe”.

Director of children and young people’s services Stuart Smith said the problems with the Early Intake Team had been exacerbated after a “tsunami” of cases flooded in to the service last October.

The number of calls to the service spiked from around 500 to 1200 and there simply wasn’t the manpower to effectively deal with that volume of cases.

“Ofsted did not find any child in Calderdale to be unsafe,” he said. “Each case goes on to an electronic file and Ofsted said these weren’t good enough.

“We audited all of our cases after the inspection and found that for about 50 per cent of cases that criticism was accurate - which is certainly not good enough.

“Some staff have worked desperately hard to change things so they are devastated and so am I.”

Leader of the council Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said: “It is hugely disappointing. It’s a blow for all the staff who have worked incredibly hard to turn things around.”

There were a number of improvements inlcuded in Ofsted’s report since the last inspection but these weren’t sufficient and the pressure is on to make sure the improvements continue across all areas.

Coun Swift said: “The best outcome is they extend the improvement notice from last time with extra conditions of what we must do. The worst outcome is they decide, like in Doncaster, that the government will have to step in and take over the service.”