Children at risk as ‘damning’ Ofsted report brands Wandsworth Council’s children’s services ‘inadequate’

The NSPCC has expressed concern over the state of Wandsworth Council’s children’s services after a damning report issued yesterday.

An Ofsted inspection which took place in November and December judged the service to be ‘inadequate’ and in need of serious alteration.

The report states that grave failings across the service, which tends to thousands of young people annually, have been identified and have left children at risk of harm and unprotected.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The result of this inspection is worrying.

“The services evaluated are designed to help some of the boroughs most vulnerable children – for example those who have been sexually exploited, neglected or physically harmed.

“Children’s protection and safety should be a priority and delays in receiving support put already vulnerable children at increased risk of harm.”

The leading children’s charity is grateful for Wandsworth Council’s reaction to the report.

They added: “It is encouraging Wandsworth Council is taking the report seriously and we welcome prompt action to ensure that children in the borough receive the services they need at the right time.”

The report states that the standard of social work practice for young people and the quality of leadership, management and governance has declined since the services were inspected in 2012.

It is alleged that since then some vulnerable children were placed in B&Bs.

Ofsted’s report said: “A number of care leavers with high needs have spent unacceptably long periods in unsuitable accommodation without the necessary support being in place.

“Some children have been left for too long in situations where they are neglected.

“This makes them more vulnerable.”

The report revealed 22% of young people in Wandsworth live ‘in poverty’ and that Wandsworth currently has 15 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

The report continued: “Lack of effective scrutiny by senior leaders, elected members and managers at all levels that they were not aware of the serious deficits in practice for too many vulnerable children until this inspection.

“This left some children at risk of harm.”

There are more than 60,000 under-18s living in Wandsworth, and in October last year there were 1,731 in need of specialist children’s services.

With such a great burden of responsibility, council members see it as imperative the department put right the wrongs of the last four years.

The report finds that 18 children who the council had ceased to look after subsequently had to return to being looked after by the council.

Dawn Warwick, director of children’s services at Wandsworth Council said: “We accept the report has found unacceptable shortcomings which we are now addressing from top to bottom.

“We know what we have to do and staff are 100% committed to delivering these improvements.”

Kathy Tracey, cabinet member for education and children’s services, is adamant that she and her colleagues are the right people to implement the necessary changes.

She said: “We have already begun this journey by making significant changes to our senior management team and strengthening our procedures based on clear advice from the inspectors.

“A detailed short and long term action plan has been developed which will be rigorously scrutinised by councillors of all parties and independent experts who can help us get to the core of the issues raised.”

Tooting MP Sadiq Khan has expressed his concern.

He said: “Looking after vulnerable children is one of the most important jobs a local authority does.

“Ofsted’s inspection report of Wandsworth’s Children’s Services is nothing short of damning.”

“Whilst social workers within the department are praised for many aspects of their work, the Council’s leadership, management and governance were judged to be inadequate, leaving some children at risk of harm, including from sexual exploitation and including cases where children have had unexplained injuries.”

“I am distressed to learn that care leavers are currently placed in Bed and Breakfast accommodation, which is unsuitable and makes these young people even more vulnerable.”

Image courtesy of Blue Square Thing, with thanks

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