Ofsted report finds four Fareham centres put young children at risk

  • Charity 4Chidlren criticised in its first inspection
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FOUR children’s centres in Fareham have been told they are failing the youngsters they’re looking after.

In an Ofsted inspection the centres, which look after more than 200 children aged under five, were found to be inadequate.

Inspectors found poor quality work, staff not knowing enough about children in child protection plans, inadequate case files and a lack of management which meant ‘children from families most in need were not safe’.

The centres, which work to prepare children for school regardless of background or family circumstances and offer support to parents, are run by charity 4Children on behalf of Hampshire County Council.

Ofsted inspected Sovereign and Strawberry Meadow Children’s Centre at Brookfield Community School in Sarisbury Green, Oak Meadow Children’s Centre in Fareham, Keepsake Children’s Centre at Portchester Community Centre and Merryfields Children’s Centre in Fareham.

Its report found that the:

Hampshire County Council and 4Children remain firmly committed to providing high quality, targeted services for children and families in Hampshire.

Councillor Keith Mans, executive member for children’s services at Hampshire County Council

n Quality of practices and services was inadequate

n Effectiveness of management was inadequate

n Access to services by young children and families required improvement.

It was the first Ofsted report for the cluster of centres since the council handed over the running of them to the charity in 2011/12.

But the charity, which runs another three centres in Eastleigh, said that it was disappointed that it had fallen short and had since produced an action plan to address all the issues raised.

A spokesperson said: ‘4Children is firmly committed to providing high-quality services for children and families and will work to ensure that the progress that has been made since the Ofsted inspection continues, and that families receive the quality of service they expect and deserve.’

Councillor Keith Mans, lead member for children’s services at the county council, said: ‘The areas for improvement in Fareham were consistent with those we had identified as part of our regular performance monitoring, particularly around information sharing, assessment and recording of outcomes.

‘It’s important also to acknowledge the strengths that Ofsted highlighted.

‘For example, they identified that many parents and carers who have experienced domestic abuse are supported well, with many reporting improvements in their lives as a result of the centres’ services and that sessions have given them confidence and self-esteem.

‘Children, including those with special educational needs, were found to do well in their learning and so are well-prepared for starting school.

‘Ofsted recorded that the facilities are of good quality and secure.

‘This was the first inspection and the first where they were inspected as a group, and as a result, the overall judgement is based on the weakest practice across all the centres.

‘An action plan for improvement is being implemented.’

A parent, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It does not surprise me. It’s got better lately but I know people who have not come here because they were so concerned.’

Cllr Mans said the Hampshire Children’s Centres were in a minority as most of the children’s centres in Hampshire have received good or outstanding ratings.

He added: ‘The county council and 4Children remain firmly committed to providing high-quality, targeted services for children and families.’