Liverpool Council’s deteriorating children’s services deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors

‘There is no denying that we have been letting our children down’

Liverpool City Council’s children’s services department has been rated ‘inadequate’ in a shocking report by Ofstedinspectors.

The service was rated as ‘requires improvement’ in 2018, but inspectors believe the quality of practice has seen a ‘deterioration’ since then.

The latest inspection took place in March 2023, and covered all aspects of children’s social care and early help. Inspectors raised concerns about capacity, workload, delays in ensuring the needs of children are met and child protection, concluding that there are ‘serious weaknesses for children who need help and protection, which leave children being harmed or at risk of harm.’

Four out of five key areas of the service were classed as ‘inadequate’ with the other being branded ‘improvement required.’ They key areas were:

  • The experiences and progress of children who need help and protection – Inadequate.
  • The experiences and progress of children in care – Requires improvement to be good.
  • The experiences and progress of care leavers – Inadequate.
  • The impact of leaders on practice with children and families – Inadequate.
  • Overall effectiveness – Inadequate.

Notable failures: The report stated senior leaders ‘have not been aware of the extent of current practice deficits or the impact on children, due to a previous lack of senior officer scrutiny and challenge’ and mentioned long-standing issues of recruitment and retention. It was also stated that ‘too many children experience delay in having their needs met’ and there were ‘serious failures to safeguard children.’

Inspectors noted that ‘the needs of disabled children are not consistently well met’ due to high workloads ‘impacting on social workers’ ability to complete fundamental work, such as regular visits, child in need plans and planning.’

Areas for improvement: Ofsted listed 11 areas of improvement including caseloads and supervision; identification and response to risk; the quality of social work practice; support, advice and guidance for care leavers, robustness of senior management oversight and the quality of information for care leavers.

What is being done well: Inspectors found that the Council’s early help offer is ‘effective’, and the work to support children who are at risk of immediate harm, is ‘mostly swift’. The response to homeless 16 and 17 year olds is praised, while children who go missing from education were found to be ‘robustly tracked and monitored’.

The report notes that interim Chief Executive Theresa Grant has ‘substantially accelerated the pace of improvement through additional financial investment and securing increased social work capacity, and [that] work is under way to address placement sufficiency issues.’

Council response: In an open letter, new elected leader of Liverpool City Council, Liam Robinson acknowledged ‘we have been letting our children down’ and vowed, ‘we will fix this.’ The statement reads:

“Taking care of our city’s most vulnerable young people is the most important responsibility that a local authority has. Upon taking office recently, it was with a growing sense of unease, and frankly anger, that I read Ofsted’s report. There is no denying that we have been letting our children down.

“I want to be clear that the report is no reflection on the incredible work of our social care staff, who work tirelessly every single day to keep our young people safe. Politics is about leadership – and I am determined that the Council – senior officers and elected members in the Cabinet working together, will put this right.

“We now have a dedicated Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Services, Cllr Liz Parsons, who has a vast amount of experience in this field, as a Children’s Centre Manager. Ofsted have highlighted important groundwork that has already been undertaken in recent months by interim Corporate Director, Suzy Joyner, who is heading the department while we recruit to leadership positions.

“Improvements have already started to be made, and the improvement journey is supported by additional funding and capacity to give our staff the resources they need to be able to do their jobs effectively. Together with the other changes we are making, I am confident we will make swift progress.

“You have my word, both as the Leader of Liverpool City Council and a parent, that we will fix this.”

Related topics: