Publication of Ofsted children's services report

By on 23/05/2014 in Cllr Jones, News

Birmingham City Council response to the Ofsted children's services report published on 23 May 2014

Response from the cabinet member for children and family services

“We must never forget that the welfare of children is at the heart of everything we do and here in Birmingham we have a group of people who are absolutely committed to ensuring we do our best for all our children and young people. When we talk about change and improvement it is important that we always remember this.

“We have been very open about the state of children's services in Birmingham and this inadequate rating is what we expected.

“The report's details build on the issues we had recognised ourselves as inadequate practice and which we shared with Ofsted on their arrival. This is welcome but we will not let the focus on current performance distract us from the tailor-made approach to improvement put in place by the Department for Education; an approach set out by the DfE during this latest Ofsted inspection.

“Ofsted arrived on site prior to the publication of the Le Grand report which addressed how to improve this city's services to children. The council gave an all-party commitment to implement the findings of the Le Grand review and to fully support the improvement process set out by the DfE, overseen by Lord Norman Warner.

“In fact, Lord Warner's initial letter to the secretary of state says quite clearly that a good start has been made and that there is a workable approach to improvement, though it is at an early stage and therefore fragile. He is very clear that he wants the council to hold a consistent focus on improvement, sustained over a long period of time.

“He also says that 'inspection has an important part to play but its overuse can distract managers from implementing the robust change management programme'. I would echo this view. In fact, when we responded to Lord Warner's appointment in March I was absolutely clear that we must not be dragged back into short-term thinking as a knee-jerk response to a poor Ofsted report, and I stand by those comments. Such a response would destroy the hard work put in by so many to stabilise the service over the last few months, and set us back very significantly in getting our service to the standard our children deserve.

“I am pleased to see that Ofsted has acknowledged that social workers now have a higher morale and that they are committed to change. This is something I have seen in my many meetings with staff and I believe is a result of the greater certainty they have about the council's position. I sincerely hope this latest report will not affect that confidence and morale and that they stay with us on our improvement journey.”

Brigid Jones
23/5/2014

Response from the director of people

“We have been clear that we ourselves judge our current position to be inadequate, so fully anticipated and accept the judgement reached by Ofsted. Their work adds to our understanding of the shortfalls in the services, which complements the insightful work of Le Grand on how to tackle these long-standing problems.

“The crucial difference this time is that we receive the judgement within the context of knowing that we are on the right track in terms of improvement; in other words, we already know where we have been and where we are, and we now know where we are going.

“This is an important point to make, because there is a real danger that it will put the focus back on inadequacy rather than our specific response. It is vital that this does not happen. Therefore we will take on board Ofsted's insight about how we need to deliver services and use it in our improvement process.

“Our resolve to improve the lives of children in this city is the council's top priority. We made a promise to improve services for children, a promise that we will deliver, and so far:

• We have readily accepted the issues facing us and have a focus on fixing the problems
• We have established clear political, corporate and service leadership in which Le Grand reports growing confidence and that Lord Warner has helped simplify
• We have started to tackle longstanding issues about unmet risks for children. Ofsted has acknowledged that the significant number of referrals of children at high risk are handled appropriately, but there is a need to expand this across all levels of risk
• We have an agreed plan for implementation, which Lord Warner will oversee and hold us to account for

“We have said all along that if there was a quick fix we would take it; there isn't one but we do offer our relentless consistency of focus. We don't expect everyone to be convinced. Those closest to the issues are our staff and Ofsted records that we are starting to see increased confidence and morale in these staff, who have faced real uncertainty but are committed to change with us. Their growing confidence is a base for further and sustained improvement.”

Peter Hay
23/05/2014

Timeline

2002 - 2005 Department of Health intervention into Birmingham as it was one of 12 councils with a zero star rating. (Tony Howell appointed director of children's services in January 2002)

2005 - 2008 A one-star rating, but no progress made.

2008 Children's Services annual performance assessment judged Birmingham inadequate at helping children and young people stay safe. Twelve month improvement notice issued.

2009 Ofsted judged that while improvements had been made, further improvements were needed.

2010 Ofsted report of Safeguarding and Looked-After Children published, judging both overall effectiveness and capacity for improvement as inadequate. BSCB published serious case review into death of Khyra Ishaq in July.  Revised improvement notice issued.

2010 (October) Eleanor Brazil appointed interim director of children's services in preparation for retirement of Tony Howell in January 2011

2012 (January) Peter Duxbury appointed director of children's services

2012 (September) Ofsted report on Local Authority Arrangements for the Protection of Children published.

2013 Council issued with a Statutory Direction to improve in March. Performance monitoring board established chaired by Sir Albert Bore.

2013 Peter Hay, director of adult social care, appointed interim director of children's services in July following departure of Peter Duxbury; in December Peter Hay appointed director of people.

2013 Letter from children's minister Edward Timpson to Sir Albert stating plan for in-depth review of service.

2013 BSCB publishes serious case review in October into death of Keanu Williams.

2014 BCC publishes LGA Peer Review into Birmingham children's services, which was commissioned by the council.

2014 (March) Le Grand Review into Birmingham children's services published; Department for Education appoints Lord Norman Warner as commissioner to oversee improvement

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