SYSTEMIC failures in child protection on the Isle of Wight have been uncovered by an Ofsted inspection.
In a report published today (Tuesday) inspectors branded the service inadequate, finding some children had been left at risk of significant harm.
Senior Isle of Wight Council figures have said they have addressed many of the issues identified by Ofsted, which carried out an unannounced inspection between November 26 and December 5.
That was supported by new chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) Ruby Parry who said the multi-agency board — which includes NHS and police representatives — had also been restructured after Ofsted found that it too was ineffective and failing to meet it’s statutory obligations.
In a damning assessment of leadership and governance, inspectors found: "Too many children and young people are not effectively protected from harm, management oversight and quality assurance measures are not robust and have failed to identify serious systemic weaknesses in the quality of child protection services."
The report found the council’s appointment of two commissioning managers for the service, who were not qualified social workers, had a negative impact on management accountability between senior managers and front line staff.
They have been replaced with an interim senior qualified social work manager. At least one of the two officers is expected to be found a new role within the authority, although not within children’s services.
A second child protection officer has also been appointed to address some of Ofsted’s concerns.
High caseloads, highly variable levels of management and a lack of regular supervision were all highlighted by inspectors.
In some cases the needs of parents were prioritised over those of the children, which according to Ofsted had left children at risk, particularly in cases where there was domestic violence.
Inspectors also raised serious concerns about delays and late allocation of work, or cases that were closed or stepped down inappropriately.
"This has resulted in some children and young people not getting help and protection at the right time and in some cases left in situations where there is risk of significant harm," the report said.
In recent days a small team of staff, headed by deputy director of children’s safeguarding Ali Matthews, has re-examined 700 cases from the last four months in which the council did not take action.
They found six cases where they believed the decision not to take action was wrong and action was then taken as soon as possible to prevent children being at risk of harm.
A joint statement issued by cabinet member for children’s services and education Cllr Dawn Cousins and Ian Anderson, director of community wellbeing and social care, said they accepted the findings and were determined to deal with the issues raised.
"At the same time we want to reassure the Island community that as a result of our investigations following the inspection we have confirmed that the main areas of concern about social care practice were limited to the performance of a small number of staff in a specific area of the service and we have acted promptly to take action in relation to those employees.
"The vast majority of our staff are hard-working, committed individuals with the interests of children and young people at the heart of everything they do, a fact that was recognised within this report, and we know they are as disappointed as we are with the findings of this inspection and are committed to addressing the shortcomings identified."
A spokeswoman confirmed some staff had since left the authority, but declined to give further details.
Ofsted protection of children report