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Safeguarding services in Birmingham remain inadequate

Safeguarding services in Birmingham Council have been graded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in an inspection report.

Although some improvements have been made recently in some key areas by social care services and by partner agencies – many of which were required by the Government Improvement Notice issued in February 2009 – the report found that ‘some key and important deficiencies remain’.

The report highlights that critical practice shortcomings, particularly within children’s social care and health, mean that not all children are being safeguarded and protected. Weaknesses in performance management data result in information about safeguarding and child protection cases not being monitored or evaluated, it adds.

The Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board has been pre-occupied with the 20 serious case reviews undertaken over the last four years, Ofsted added, and said that although plans are underway to achieve a shift in focus, ‘the Board is not yet able to fulfill its role in professional leadership to which it properly aspires’.

The capacity for improvement was described as inadequate. ‘Critical deficiencies remain in frontline work with children and young people, despite significant attempts to deliver improvements,’ the report states.

Ofsted makes a number of recommendations, including ensuring that auditing arrangements to provide comprehensive and accurate qualitative and quantitative information about safeguarding and child protection services are in place within three months.

In the same timescale, the roles and capacity of the designated professionals across the three primary care trusts should be clarified.

The report comes after the director of children’s social care at Birmingham told BASW’s annual conference in May that social workers in Birmingham had been “blamed for just about everything” wrong with services for children, while other agencies in the city had remained largely uncriticised.

Colin Tucker told the conference that his department, which had been criticised in the light of the death of Khyra Ishaq in 2008, had held onto a number of “fantastic staff who have stuck in there through thick and thin”.

Shortly after the inspection was carried out – between 7 and 18 June – Birmingham City Council was responsible for 2,012 looked-after children and 1,321 children were the subject of child protection plans.