Haringey requires urgent action to ensure vulnerable children are properly protected

Ofsted has today presented the findings from the joint investigation looking at safeguarding children in the London Borough of Haringey to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The report calls on the government to provide immediate support to Haringey Council to ensure that full and effective safeguarding arrangements for children and young people are established.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, said: “This inspection has identified serious concerns in relation to the safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey which need to be addressed as a priority. Haringey needs to take urgent action to ensure vulnerable children are properly protected.”

Following the recent court case into the tragic death of ‘Baby P’, Ofsted was part of a multi-agency inspection team asked by the Secretary of State to review the child protection arrangements and safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey.

The inspection – which was carried out by seven inspectors from Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary - evaluated the contribution made by relevant local agencies to ensure that children and young people are safe. It started on 13 November and was completed on 26 November 2008.

The inspection found there is insufficient strategic leadership and management oversight of safeguarding services by Haringey councillors and officers. There is a managerial failure to ensure full compliance with the recommendations of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry (which reported in January 2003 following the death of Victoria Climbié, also in Haringey).

Access to child protection services is inconsistent so not all children’s needs are appropriately met; not all social care files contain a chronology of the case; and where the child is not seen alone, there is limited evidence of managers addressing the reasons and enabling the child’s voice to be heard.

The inspection also found arrangements for the management of performance and service quality across the council and the local strategic partnership are inadequate. Social care, health and police authority professionals do not effectively communicate or routinely collaborate to ensure children’s safety; and assessments of vulnerable children are failing to identify and meet their needs. There are inconsistencies in front line practice and child protection plans are generally poor.

In addition, the inspection found that record keeping is inconsistent and sometimes of poor quality. This means that vital information which might help to form a complete picture of a child’s safety and welfare is not available. There is too much reliance on quantitative data – which is not always accurate or complete - and not enough focus on what makes a quality service on the ground. The Local Safeguarding Children Board fails to provide sufficient scrutiny and challenge.

Christine Gilbert said: “This was not an investigation into the tragic death of ‘Baby P’, but it has shown that the serious concerns raised by his case, and indeed the death of Victoria Climbié, remain. Haringey is clearly still not doing enough to ensure that children are properly protected.

“The investigation has reinforced my view that Ofsted should carry out an unannounced inspection of every local authority children’s service each year to ensure that they are properly safeguarding vulnerable children and young people. We announced this proposal in September 2008, along with other changes to the way services will be evaluated in future, so that a more regular look at performance data will always backed up by an annual inspection visit to look at what lies behind the data.

“We also know that performance can go backwards – and what looks promising may not translate into reality. Annual inspections will keep a spotlight on services and help to keep children safer.”

Inspectors gathered evidence for the report by looking in detail over a short period at current practice in the Borough. Case files for children and young people receiving support from a number of local agencies were reviewed, including those relating to ‘Baby P’ and his siblings.

Inspectors also met with local councillors and managers from various agencies, children and young people and community representatives.

The joint inspection also considered:

  • the Borough’s Children and Young People’s Plan
  • the most recent available performance data
  • information from the inspection of local settings, such as schools and day care provision
  • briefings from staff within inspectorates, commissions and other public bodies in contact with local providers
  • the serious case review relating to ‘Baby P’
  • Ofsted’s evaluation of the serious case review relating to ‘Baby P’.

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Notes for Editors

1. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is responsible for the regulation and inspection of children's social care, the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, childminders, full and sessional day-care providers, out of school care, crèches, adoption and fostering agencies, residential schools, family centres and homes for children, all state maintained schools, some independent schools, pupil referral units, the overall level of services for children in local authority areas (known as Joint Area Reviews), further education Initial Teacher Training, and publicly funded adult skills and employment based training.

2. Haringey was last inspected as part of a Joint Area Review (JAR) in 2006 which found safeguarding arrangements to be of the minimum acceptable standard. That inspection considered arrangements for safeguarding as part of a wider review of the outcomes achieved by children and young people in the area.

3. The 2006 JAR review, which included some inspection fieldwork over a six week period, raised a number of concerns. Child protection work was rated as adequate, together with social care for children. Overall the staying safe score was adequate – the lowest acceptable standard. Other aspects of the council’s services for children, including education and health were rated as good.

4. The JAR reported that there were delays in addressing some children’s needs, including potential child protection concerns, and inconsistencies in sharing information. High levels of staff turnover were also reported in leading to a lack of continuity in the management of some cases. However, the JAR also noted that improvements had been made and that there was capacity for further improvement.

5. The 2006 JAR was followed up in 2007 by an Annual Performance Assessment of the council’s children’s services. This indicated improvement in a number of key areas. The Annual Performance Assessment process, which comes to an end in its current form this year, is only a review of documentation and data provided by the council and does not include inspection fieldwork. The 2007 APA concluded that children’s services overall were grade 3.

6. The quality of the serious case review, carried out by the Local Children Safeguarding Board into the death of ‘Baby P’ was deemed by Ofsted as ‘inadequate’. Of the nine agency reviews that contributed to the overall report five were inadequate, one was adequate and three were good. The inadequate reviews significantly undermined the integrity of the serious case review.

7. In September 2008 Ofsted launched a consultation on its proposal to introduce a new ‘performance profile’ for each local authority area along with changes to the way it inspects services for looked after children and safeguarding. The consultation closes on 3 December 2008. This timetable enables responses to be considered within the wider arrangements for consulting on and developing Comprehensive Area Assessments. Ofsted will publish a report on the responses from this consultation on the Ofsted website during January 2009.

8. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 0207 421 6622 between 8.30am – 6.30pm Monday – Friday. During evenings and weekends the out-of-hours duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359. Alternatively you can email your enquiry to pressenquiries@ofsted.gov.uk

9. The inspection was carried out by Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission and her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. Further details of the Healthcare Commission can be found at www.healthcarecommission.org.uk; further information on Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) can be found at www.inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic