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DfE issues Improvement Notice to Solihull Council following joint inspection

An Improvement Notice has been issued to Solihull Council by the Department for Education following the recent Joint Targeted Inspection of the authority.

The Improvement Notice was issued on 28 February 2022 following concerns around serious weaknesses in parts of the council’s children’s social care functions, and evidence of unassessed and unknown risk.

It follows the JTAI into Solihull, which was carried out by Ofsted, Care Quality Commission and HMI Probation and HMI Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, following the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Arthur’s step-mother Emma Tustin has been jailed for life with a minimum of 29 years after she was found guilty of murdering Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. His father Thomas Hughes has been convicted of his manslaughter and jailed for 21 years.

The JTAI was ordered at the same time as a national review by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel into Arthur’s death and it has since been announced that the review will cover the death of Star Hobson.

The Joint inspection found:

  • Insufficient social work capacity in Solihull’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub at the time of the inspection in January 2022.
  • Weaknesses in the joint strategic governance of the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH).
  • Staff at the MASH faced immense pressure to meet the daily demand, and this reduces their ability to respond swiftly to all concerns for children.
  • Learning from significant incidents in Solihull is not shared effectively with the wider workforce.
  • Not all agencies are invited to, or attend, child protection strategy meetings, meaning that decisions are being made when those present do not have all the relevant information about a child and their family.

The Improvement Notice was given to address: a) Serious concerns in respect of fragility of the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and insufficient social worker capacity in the Council to deal effectively with presenting need. b) Crisis management to reduce unallocated cases and situations of unassessed and unknown risk for a significant number of children in the Council’s area; and c) The JTAI multi-agency Area for Priority Action and other areas for improvement identified by Ofsted.

The Secretary of State appointed an Improvement Adviser, Gladys Rhodes White, to provide advice to the Department for Education and the Council. The Council will work with the Improvement Adviser for a minimum of 12 months, and/or until such time that the Secretary of State is satisfied this is no longer required.

The Council should implement an improvement plan that will deliver appropriate and sustainable improvement.

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