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‘Serious failures’ in Tameside’s children’s services department have left kids ‘being harmed’

Oftsed has rated Tameside's children's services 'inadequate' after noting "serious failures" that have led to kids "being harmed" or at "risk of harm".

The council has vowed to make improvements after inspectors highlighted "ineffective" leadership in its latest report.

The service was deemed to 'require improvement’ in 2019. Performance has since gone backwards and services have deteriorated. 

Inspectors criticised a reliance on agency staff to deal with soaring demand. The quality of children’s assessments was "not good enough" and sometimes failed to identify risk. 

"Individual experiences" were not analysed properly, the report added. "Too many children [have] experienced ongoing harm and [have] lived in neglectful situations," it said. 

Ineffective senior leadership has been criticised since 2019. A new management team was brought in during a restructure in August 2023. Inspectors said the impact of that rejig was unclear when they visited in December that year.  

The service was deemed inadequate in four categories: the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families; the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection; the experiences and progress of children in care; and overall effectiveness.

"The experiences and progress of care leavers requires improvement to be good," inspectors said.

“There are serious failures that leave children being harmed or at risk of harm,” the report read. “While staff turnover has decreased, caseloads in some areas of the service have increased and there is an over-reliance on newly qualified and agency staff. 

“Too many children experience drift and delay, including due to changes in social workers, weak planning that is overly adult-focused, and a lack of robust management oversight and direction. 

“As a result, some children experience ongoing harm, and live in neglectful situations for too long, without timely authoritative action being taken."

Council leader Gerald Cooney said: “We acknowledge and accept this judgement from Ofsted and it’s our absolute priority to continue to improve services for our children and families. 

“I have ensured recent changes were made and will ensure any further necessary changes are put in place to address the issues both ourselves and Ofsted have identified.

“I am confident that we have the right leadership team in place in the service with a clear focus on what needs to be done, and I’m pleased Ofsted acknowledged we have the right leadership team in place and a robust improvement plan.

“I’m whole-heartedly determined we are going to get this right and give our children and young people the quality of service they need and deserve.”

There were positives. Inspectors said children are supported well and kept safe when they’re at risk of sexual exploitation. 

Ofsted said the newly-appointed leadership team had already taken ‘swift action’ with the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to restructure the service and increase its capacity to protect children.

The council’s deputy executive leaders Coun Bill Fairfoull, who has responsibility over children and families, said: “We accept we must – and we will – do better for our children and young people in Tameside.”

He said that at the time of the inspection, no children were at immediate risk of harm.

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