It comes as no surprise that Ofsted’s inspection of child protection arrangement in Coventry has come to a verdict of ‘inadequate’. Managers and elected members there have been quite open about the problems the organisation has experienced in the wake of the death of Daniel Pelka.
A copy of the report can be downloaded from the Ofsted website. The story is also covered by the Coventry Telegraph and the BBC.
The report of the inspection says that staff in Coventry’s referral and assessment teams cannot do their jobs properly because of very high caseloads. As a result, the authority is said to be too slow in responding and children who need protection are not being seen or assessed sufficiently quickly.
Leadership and management of children's services are also criticised as being below standard. And - surprise, surprise - information sharing between agencies is also said to be inadequate. The Coventry Safeguarding Children Board is also criticised.
Brian Walsh, the council’s recently appointed director of children’s services, said that he was expecting a poor Ofsted report, following the impact of the Daniel Pelka tragedy. He drew attention to the significant rise in the number of referrals to the authority Children’s services. Caseloads were said to have risen from just over 3,000 children in 2013 to just over 4,500 a year later.
I am firmly convinced that there is often a downward spiral following a child protection tragedy. More referrals result in increased pressure on staff and resources. In turn that results in increased vacancy rates because not many people want to work under great pressure for an ‘inadequate’ employer.
I am pleased to see that Coventry City Council is making extra resources available to try to address the issues, but sadly I think the Ofsted inspection system points to, and indeed exacerbates, the problems while not identifying the solutions. The inspector provides a long list of recommendations of the this-is-wrong-put-it-right variety (see page 6 of the report), but I don’t see how any of these tackles the fundamental problem of too few people doing too much work.