Portsmouth City Council needs to improve care for vulnerable children

Vulnerable children are being failed by the council. Picture posed by model
Vulnerable children are being failed by the council. Picture posed by model

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PORTSMOUTH City Council is failing to protect some vulnerable children in its care.

The authority has been criticised after an Ofsted inspection into its children’s services deemed it ‘requires improvement’ in relation to those in need of help and protection.

While three out of five areas of the service were rated as good – and the council was praised for its leadership – the report also said too many children in the council’s care are leaving the system not in education, employment or training – becoming youngsters known as Neets.

Children who are being fostered do not have arrangements to ensure they are given the level of protection and support that they need.

And some children and families, when their needs become complex or risks in their lives increase, do not get help from a social worker soon enough.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, former leader of the council, said: ‘On the face of it, it is worrying. Last year in the council’s budget the only service to get an increase in money was children’s social care.

‘There are things that need to be done better. I’m reassured that there clearly are things that are going well but it’s worrying that there are things that could be and should be better.’

Councillor Paul Godier, Ukip spokesman for children and education, said: ‘These are the most vulnerable in our communities. We must protect them at all costs. These are our future and we have a responsibility to protect them.

‘There are some issues but none create or leave children at risk of harm.

‘We have good safeguarding practices throughout the city and a dedicated local authority that is working hard to improve on what we have, even during these times of cuts.’

The report said about a quarter (24.4 per cent) of children in the local authority area live in poverty – above the national average of 20.1 per cent. But councillor Donna Jones, leader of the council, said that she believes the section titled ‘children who need help and protection’ should be graded good and intends to appeal.

‘We think that if you factor in the community work and the health visitors and health professionals, we’ve got a good overall strategy,’ she said.

‘There is a huge amount of work that has been done.’

But Cllr Jones added she accepts helping care leavers progress needs to be improved.

‘We have an obligation to do that. That’s an area that needs more work,’ she said.

‘The education of young people is one of my priorities.’

Julian Wooster, the council’s strategic director for children’s services said: ‘Portsmouth’s child protection, safeguarding, adoption, and services to children in care are all rated good by Ofsted.

‘However we are not complacent and agree with Ofsted that for a small number of families help needs to improve, but disagree with the solution of more families receiving children’s services, and have challenged this recommendation.’

Board’s work rated as good by inspectors in report

OFSTED inspectors heaped praise on the Portsmouth Local Safeguarding Children Board (PSCB), saying that in the last year there has been a great deal of improvement in the effectiveness of the board and grading it as ‘good.’

Ofsted said partners value the strong leadership of the board which enables them to take full responsibility for the contribution and role of their individual agencies.

And the recruitment of three young adults as lay members is making a useful contribution to the board, which works with the council to safeguard children and promote their welfare.

Reg Hooke, independent chairman of PSCB said: ‘I warmly welcome the Ofsted grading of “good”.

‘This is a strong endorsement of the clear and firm direction we are taking in holding agencies to account over the care and support they provide to the most vulnerable children in Portsmouth.

‘The report highlights the excellent partnership commitment of those concerned with safeguarding children across the city.

‘The board supports the work and initiatives of children’s services who have substantially increased the resources they put into providing a range of early help to children and families, an approach which directly reduces the number of children that need statutory interventions.’