HIGH staff turnover is continuing to hinder improvement at Bradford Council children's services and too many children within the system that are at risk of exploitation have poor school attendance.

The local authority was visited for the seventh time by Ofsted since its children's services was rated Inadequate back in September 2018.

This inspection took place across two days, on February 2 and 3, and focused on the protection of vulnerable adolescents.

Bradford Council lost full control of its children's services in January and a newly created trust - owned by the local authority but operated at arms-length by a new independent Chair and Board of Directors - took over the reins.

It came in the aftermath of the trial at the end of last year, relating to the tragic death of 16-month old Star Hobson, who was murdered by Savannah Brockhill in September 2020, while her partner and Star's mum, Frankie Smith was convicted of causing or allowing the death of her daughter.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Star HobsonStar Hobson

This is the first Ofsted inspection since then.

One of the long-standing issues with the service is the use of agency staff and non-permanent workers.

While certain aspects have improved and steps are being made to rectify this, there is still a high turnover in staff and this is blocking further advancement.

The report states: "The continued high turnover of staff is a barrier to sustained service-wide improvement.

"There is a programme of recruitment underway and an academy for newly qualified social workers is in development.

"However, neither addresses the immediate and ongoing challenges of having an assured permanent workforce in Bradford."

An education safeguarding officer role has been developed by the service, to link with schools and improve attendance for vulnerable adolescents, but too many of those at risk of exploitation have poor attendance.

The report states: "Inspectors found many children at risk of exploitation with low school attendance and a lack of professional understanding to address this.

"Not attending school significantly increases children’s vulnerability to abuse through exploitation and going missing from home."

A positive observation that Ofsted made this time around is there has been a reduction in the overall numbers of missing children and episodes of going missing from home or care, month-on-month over the past year.

The report adds: "The majority of children who go missing from home or care receive an effective and prompt response."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford City HallBradford City Hall

Councillor Sue Duffy, portfolio holder for children and families, said: “Protecting vulnerable young people is our top priority.

"It is a welcome outcome for all the partners involved to know that our multi-agency hub is on the right track and that Ofsted recognise the fact that it is making a difference in helping to protect young people.

“We know there is much more to do.

"The visit from Ofsted also found that our social work practice in some areas still needs to improve, though Ofsted acknowledged that they spoke with some highly committed and resilient social workers during their visit.

“Ofsted recognise that high turnover of staff is a barrier to sustained improvement but that we have a recruitment campaign underway and have launched our academy for newly qualified social workers.

"We’re confident that our new children’s company will also provide the impetus to deliver these improvements at pace.”