Government inspectors have given a damning verdict of Kirklees Council’s bid to improve its work to protect children from harm.
Social work standards were so poor that Ofsted officials stepped in and ordered “immediate action” to double check that children were safe.
In a strongly worded letter, inspectors Rachel Holden and Cath McEvoy say they found that the immediate risk to youngsters was not always being recognised or responded to.
And it reveals the inspectors themselves asked the council to look again at a “high number” of the cases they reviewed during their visit in October.
The service was judged ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in late 2016, put into special measures and under the control of external troubleshooters.
A formal partnership with Leeds City Council was established in recent months in a bid to turn the struggling department around.
But a letter sent to the interim director Steve Walker following a monitoring visit by two Ofsted inspectors has raised serious concerns and listed a litany of shortcomings.
It says the “pace of change is too slow” and that “widespread and serious failures remain” when it comes to the initial assessment of vulnerable children in the borough.
Worse still, the inspectors said the management of children at risk had deteriorated and opportunities to improve it had been missed.
It says in one case the potential for significant harm to a child had been missed.
“Decision making, risk assessment and the resulting actions are not ensuring children’s safety,” the letter says.
It goes on: “The quality of the majority of assessments is poor.”
The inspectors concede it may be too soon for Mr Walker to have implemented the improvements necessary.
They agree the “overarching improvement plan” is appropriate.
Writing in an internal memo to staff, Mr Walker said: “Ofsted visit Kirklees every few months to see how we are progressing in our work to develop services.
“They did highlight some areas of improvement, such as new processes which have led to a better flow of work and our increased focus on supporting staff in order to create the right conditions for social work to flourish.
“Overall the visit was less positive than I would have hoped but, having said that, Ofsted’s findings were not a surprise as the focus of their visit was very narrow and did not give us the best chance to show the impact of some really significant recent changes.
“I want to stress that there’s lots of major progress being made in areas which were not part of Ofsted’s visit.
“We won’t be moving away from our improvement strategy.
“It has been agreed by government, as well as local organisations such as the Safeguarding Children Board, and it is the right approach for local families.”