THERE has been "extensive drift and delay" in Bradford children in care experiencing permanence, Ofsted inspectors have claimed.

In its latest inspection of the Council's beleaguered Children's Services Department, inspections focused on how children in care in the district were provided with stability by the Council.

Although they found there were "pockets of good practice" there were still major issues, such as the fact one in five children in care are placed out of area.

The department was judged Inadequate by Ofsted in late 2018, and the Council created an improvement plan shortly after the judgement.

Since then there has been numerous follow up inspections focusing on different areas. Many have found that while there have been improvements since that damning inspection, the service was not improving fast enough.

Bradford Council Children's Services still inadequate finds Ofsted

A letter from Ofsted, published yesterday, said: "The improvement plan had initially stalled due to a delay in recruiting permanent senior leaders, and in securing an understanding of the scale of the inadequacy by politicians and across the partnership.

"The new leadership team have now embarked on a wholescale restructuring of the service, which has required stripping the service back to basics. The service is now starting to address this legacy of poor practice and ineffective management and work through children’s cases to ensure the right planning is in place.

"Notwithstanding the work being undertaken to safely reduce numbers, there remains a large number of children in care.

"There are significant challenges with providing placement choice for children, particularly for those who need to live with their brothers and sisters. As a result, external placements are being used, with 21 per cent of children being placed out of area."

"For some older children with specific vulnerabilities, risk was not being addressed when they went missing, and there was a lack of appropriate safety planning.

"Children are not being consistently helped to understand their long-term plan and why they came into care. This is leaving some children anxious, and their emotional well-being is not being adequately addressed. There is insufficient access to, and availability of, therapeutic provision to respond to children’s emotional and mental health needs.

"Many social workers are positive about working for Bradford and understood the need to make improvements for the benefit of the children they work with."

Mark Douglas, strategic director for children’s services, said: “It’s good that Ofsted recognise that the new staffing structures we are putting in place will help services get the basics right for children. It’s also positive that they recognise how we’re starting to address poor practice across services. But we know we have a lot more to do, and need to move more quickly and up the pace of improvement.”

“We’re very aware of the additional pressure that coronavirus is putting on our teams and how we need to manage the service to get through this unprecedented situation. We will undoubtedly face more pressure on our service as a result of both the health and economic impacts COVID-19 brings, but of course we also need to take care of our staff so that we can do that work.”

Councillor Adrian Farley, portfolio holder for children and families, said: “The letter from Ofsted emphasises the firm commitment from council members and the Council’s Executive to support investment in the innovation and improvement programme for Children’s Services with significant recurring funding.

“We now need to make sure that this investment urgently accelerates the rate of improvement so we can deliver the services that children need.”

The Ofsted update will be discussed by Bradford Council's Executive at a meeting on Tuesday.