There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Barnet, an Oftsed inspection of the local authority has found.
The inspectorate rated children’s services at the London Borough of Barnet inadequate after inspectors identified “a legacy of widespread poor practice and ongoing systemic failures”.
Partners in the multi-agency safeguarding hub do not effectively share information or ensure timely decision making. This causes delay for too many children, some of whom remain at risk of significant harm.
“Child protection investigations are of poor quality, with insufficient information sharing between partner agencies to ensure rigorous risk analysis. This results in the risks to children not being fully understood or evaluated,” said the report. “Large numbers of poor-quality assessments result in inappropriate planning, and many children subsequently need a reassessment before they can receive more specialised help and support.”
The inspectorate also found:
Ofsted highlighted that since the local authority was last inspected in 2012, there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of service provision. However, this was recognised by the current director of children’s services, who commissioned an independent diagnostic review of children’s services in January 2016.
The review confirmed widespread systemic weaknesses in practice and action was taken to address concerns. Senior leaders have successfully gained corporate support and resources to make improvements:
“There is evidence of some recent improvements that have been made as a result of these strategies. However, to date, these have been ineffective in improving core standards of social work practice for children and their families,” said the report.
Ofsted recommends that the authority:
Chris Munday, Strategic Director for Children and Young People at Barnet, said: “We fully accept the findings of the report and are committed to taking further action to ensure better support for children and young people in Barnet. The need for systemic improvement across the service was identified by us and we have been working extremely hard to implement necessary changes, but these have not yet had the impact that is needed.
“There is no place for poor standards in Barnet and I am sorry that our services haven’t been good enough for children and young people. It is our responsibility to ensure that our staff are supported and given the resources they need to do their jobs effectively and meet quality standards.
“We have undertaken a root and branch review of services and changes have been made to put children at the heart of what we do. There are new Practice Leaders in place. Caseloads for social workers have also reduced so we can improve quality and remove poor practice.
“Fundamental change of this nature can take time, but we are determined to make the necessary improvements at pace and our action plan sets that out. Safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children will always be our number one priority.”
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