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Ofsted report slams Surrey Children's services

Children's eye

1:42pm 16th May 2018
(Updated 7:26am 17th May 2018)

Children in need in Surrey are being exposed to "continuing harm" leaving them vulnerable to acute and long term risk.

That is the finding of a damning report by Ofsted - which has rated Surrey County Council's Children's services  "Inadequate" overall.

Its latest inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers, looked at the period from February 26 to March 22 2018.

The watchdog said the council had been "far too slow to accept and act on findings and recommendations" of a previous inspection in 2014 - and to respond urgently enough to the findings of subsequent monitoring visits.

It said action was not being taken quickly enough to protect children, and too many youngsters were left vulnerable for long periods of time.

It said intervention in families had been going on often for many years, without any sustainable changes being achieved.

It criticised Children's Services staff, saying "frontline managers and social workers do not routinely analyse family histories and the negligible impact of earlier phases of help" - which means children continue to be exposed to neglectful parenting, often including domestic abuse.

It said the resultant "corrosive damage" to their social, emotional, physical and educational development left them vulnerable to acute and longer term risk.

It said while the council has realised that improvements are necessary, children in care need better support: "Very recently, leaders, managers and elected members have grasped the scale of improvement needed through an honest acceptance of the depth of practice shortcomings, and a concerted focus on improving children’s experiences and outcomes.

"This positive cultural change is starting to build a better understanding of risk, a learning-based practice model and more confident, informed social work with children.

"However, these improvements are yet to be embedded, and have not yet led to sustained, widespread reform on the scale required for consistently effective 3 and safe frontline services."

Responding to the report, Clare Curran, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, says it has recruited a new head to turn the department around: “We totally accept that the support we give to children and their families simply isn’t good enough and we’ve brought in one of the country’s most highly-respected children’s services directors, Dave Hill, to spearhead the changes we need to make.

“Ofsted recognises we have started the work but much more needs to be done and with Dave in place, we’ll build on this, so that support for children in Surrey is as good as it possibly can be.”

Mr Hill, now the county council’s Executive Director for Children, Families and Learning, said: “I’m clear we need to do more to improve the lives of children in Surrey. That’s what I’ve been brought in to do, using the experience I have turning round children’s services in other parts of the country. I’m sure we will also do so in Surrey.”

In its response, leader of the Liberal Democrats Chris Botten said Surrey County Council had been "far too slow to recognise the urgent need for modernisation and improvement ."

In a statement, he said: "The publication today of the Ofsted report into Surrey's Children's services makes difficult reading, and tells of a slow, almost dilatory approach to improvement since the last Ofsted inspection.

"I agree that the right leadership and governance arrangements are now in place to make rapid progress, but am concerned about the lost years for the children in our care.

"The new appointment of an Executive Director for Children, Families & Learning gives me confidence going forward, but nothing can repair the years when children received poor support and were at risk.

"Each and every recommendation in the report must be implemented and I will do my best to ensure, through my membership of the Children's Select Committee, that they are."

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