A STARK report has lambasted Barnet Council’s children’s services as ’inadequate’.
Inspectors found a devastating catalogue of deficiencies and say the quality of the service has plummeted in five years, when it was described as ’good’.
They say some youngsters are at ’risk of significant harm’ and sometimes not taken into care soon enough.
After a three-week inspection Ofsted concluded: “There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Barnet.
“Inspectors identified a legacy of widespread and poor practice and ongoing systemic failures and services that neither adequately ensure the safety, nor promote the welfare of children and young people.”
It adds: “Since the authority was last inspected in 2012, there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of service provision.”
A council review last year flagged up flaws and the report acknowledges Barnet is taking steps to sort itself out.
But the council’s social workers are criticised heavily. The report says: “Plans to help children and young people in need are not very good.
“Not all social workers are good at working out the risk of dangers … They do not always make sure that children and young people are receiving the right services from the right people.”
Other findings include:
* Bad decision-making, which slows down action. “The impact on children living with the risk posed by parental behaviours is poor, in the majority of cases.”
* Social workers do not always have children taken into care soon enough.
* Care planning is ineffective. “This is particularly stark for children who are victims of long-term neglect and emotional abuse... examples include children whose chronic neglect is ’missed’ due to a focus on a disability’.
* The council is far too tolerant of the risks children face when they go missing. “Inspectors saw examples of children being threatened with violence or being physically attacked.”
* “Oversight of practice by heads of service and team managers is weak.”
* The Barnet Safeguarding Children’s Board is inadequate and its monitoring has been poor and insufficient with the board unaware of the failings to safeguard children.
At the end of March this year, 2,849 children in Barnet were in need of a specialist children’s service, with 196 subject to a child protection plan.
A total of 345 were being looked after by the council. There are about 93,500 children in the borough.
Inspectors also say: “Senior leaders have gained corporate support and resources to make improvements and demonstrate a sound understanding of the areas for development and a commitment to improving services for children and families.”
Chris Munday, Barnet council’s strategic director for children and young people, said: “We fully accept the findings of the report and are committed to taking further action to ensure better support for children and young people in Barnet. The need for systemic improvement across the service was identified by us and we have been working extremely hard to implement necessary changes.
“There is no place for poor standards in Barnet and I am sorry that our services haven’t been good enough for children and young people."