Bradford Council services for vulnerable children need to improve - Ofsted

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Reading the Ofsted review are (from left) Julie Jenkins, Councillor Ralph Berry and Michael Jameson Reading the Ofsted review are (from left) Julie Jenkins, Councillor Ralph Berry and Michael Jameson

Bradford Council’s safeguarding children board is receiving about 100 more referrals a month since the high-profile criminal trial last year relating to the tragic death of four-year-old Hamzah Khan.

Government inspection body Ofsted today released its latest report into both the board and the Council’s services for children in care or needing protection.

Despite getting a “good” rating in five out of six areas, including the effectiveness of the safeguarding board, inspectors said that overall the services “required improvement” because of some issues in the way in which they deal with vulnerable children.

Inspectors praised, among other things, how the Council has been tackling sexual grooming.

The four-week-long inspection, which ended in March, was the first since the Hamzah Khan court case which resulted in his mother Amanda Hutton being jailed for starving him to death.

Ofsted’s report states: “There are no widespread or serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm.

“However, the authority is not yet delivering good protection and help for children, young people and families.”

The heads of children’s services told the Telegraph & Argus that many of the issues raised in the report had since been dealt with, and they were confident with how the service was being run in the face of cuts and increasing pressures.

Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, said there had been a 47 per cent rise in child protection referrals since the last inspection in 2012, when the Council was judged “good” – mainly due to the Hamzah case.

The report also notes that 12 of the Council’s 13 children’s homes had been deemed either good or outstanding.

Coun Berry said: “You need to look at the context of this report. There has been a 47 per cent rise in child protection referrals since the last report.

“All the actions that Ofsted said needed to be taken have been taken.

“We have been through a choppy year, but we have got through it and still got a mostly good judgment.”

He added: “I’d like to thank social workers who make difficult and challenging decisions every day to protect children and young people who might be at risk.

“The inspection highlights some areas that we need to address and robust action has already been taken to make improvements in these areas.”

Michael Jameson, who took over as the strategic director of children’s services in April, said: “The key message from the report is that these children are well cared for. Another is that no children were found to be at risk.”

Mr Jameson said many of the issues flagged up in the report regarded “managerial processes” rather than child safety issues.

Since the Hamzah case public awareness and willingness to report child neglect cases has increased and the Council has put more resources into tackling the issue.

Julie Jenkins, assistant director of children’s special services, said: “There are 3,900 children we are working with at any time. We normally get about 420 referrals a month. At the moment we are getting 520 a month.”

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