Ofsted: Gloucestershire Children’s Services Failed Sexually Abused Children

Ofsted: Gloucestershire Children’s Services Failed Sexually Abused Children

By Charlotte Webster-

The quality of social work practice in Gloucestershire children’s services is lacking in rigour for implementing risk assessments for sexually abused children, Ofsted has said. Ofsted noted that whilst the local authority is making progress in improving services for children and young
people, too many children continue to experience drift and delay in the assessment, planning and provision of services to meet their needs. Despite significant financial investment , too many children were experiencing delays in achieving permanence, and children in care continued to experience drift and delay.

The Eye Of Media.Com can confirm that there are a number of children under the care of Gloucestershire children’s services who have suffered sexual abuse in the hands of their stepfathers, and some by their current partners and former partners. Girls in particular who have suffered sexual abuse tend to hide this awful experience from their peers, but develop a very resentful and hostile attitude towards other people. Many of these victims require a sustained level of care and expertise. Some have in addition to the scar of sexual abuse, a web of other complex problems affecting their mind. They can be difficult to control, and many of them skip school regularly or don’t attend. Most are doomed to be school drop outs, but an effective children’s services ought to provide a safeguard for them.

A number of management posts to support social workers had failed to fill in the gap, leaving a high vacancy rate and turnover of staff, Ofsted said. In a number of cases, escalating risk had neither been recognized nor had urgent action been taken to secure children’s safety. Social workers need more support to respond to all sorts of exploitation, the report also said. Ofsted concluded in their inspection last May(published in a report on Friday) that despite notable improvements in certain aspects, Gloucestershire Council was failing in many respects.

Ofsted considered a range of evidence during the visit, including electronic case records, supervision files and notes and information provided by staff and managers. They also spoke to a range of staff, including managers, social workers, foster
carers, young people and independent reviewing officers. More disturbing was the conclusion that children’s reviews are not effective in considering progress or implementing plans to reduce risk and address children’s needs. The alarming finding exposes the level of incompetence that continued in Gloucestershire Children’s Services despite continued funding and spending by Gloucestershire Council.

”Children in care experience drift and delay, and a small but significant number remain in situations of unassesed risk for too long. A
minority of children experience placement breakdown due to poor early planning and intervention. Too many children experience delays in achieving permanence, and in some cases this has impacted on placement stability and children’s emotional well-being”, the report states. Although improvements were noted in a number of cases, escalating risk had neither been recognized nor had urgent action been taken to secure children’s safety. Improvement, Ofsted said, is required to ensure that social workers are supported to identify and respond to all forms of
exploitation. Ofsted noted that a number of social workers were working ”tenaciously” to assist children’s outcomes, but observed that those efforts were ”not consistent across the service”.

The report also stated that ”not all social workers are clear about the outcomes required for children and there is a lack of focus on long-term planning for
children, including post-18, to anticipate their needs and assist them to become
successful adults”.

Ofsted further pointed out that Children’s views and wishes are not always considered in reviews or planning, even where they are clearly articulated. Ofsted also found that review minutes are often confused, with very little evidence that significant health or risk issues have been discussed. Ofsted’s findings did note that the quality of assessments had improved in general, but said assessments continued to be variable and that further improvements are necessary to ensure that children receive effective services within a timescale that is right for them. Changes in children’s circumstances were not updated to reflect their current needs and placements.

“During this monitoring visit, inspectors saw a number of examples of social workers working tenaciously to secure the best outcomes for children, with positive results. Clear forward planning, engagement with professionals and effective coordination of services by social workers are making a difference for children,” the damning report added. It added that staff morale had improved since the last monitoring visit, and social workers were positive about the measures that had been introduced. Glocestershire Council was heavily criticized in 2017 for widespread failures in its services after Ofsted questioned the quality and integrity of its services.

Gloucestershire Children’s Services  admits a continuous need  for improvement in social work practice to improve to avoid children experiencing delays. Some assessments are still not being completed quickly enough nor do they develop along with the needs of the child, causing delays in the care they receive. They say the council has already started to address these concerns, with a new training programme starting which will give the council’s social workers the skills and knowledge they need to improve their practice.

Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “I’ve been really impressed by the impact of the new management in children’s services and am pleased that this has been reflected in the feedback from Ofsted.

Chris Spencer, director of children’s services in Gloucestershire, welcomed the feedback and was glad Ofsted had started to see improvements.

“Keeping children in Gloucestershire safe is our number one priority and we are determined to make sure that children are safe and supported. Realistically, this is a two-year process to get us up to ‘good’ level and I’m grateful to the staff for all their work to date.”
However, in a number of cases escalating risk had neither been recognized nor had
urgent action been taken to secure children’s safety.  Improvement is required to ensure that social workers are supported to identify and respond to all forms of
exploitation.

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