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Agenda item


The report provides an overview of the recent Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) Inspection Report of the Blackpool Youth Offending Service and the Ofsted Inspection Report of Blackpool Children’s Social Care Services. This report outlines the judgements and recommendations made by both inspectorates and the improvement plans in place.


Mrs Diane Booth, Director of Children’s Services reported that the Council had been subject to two recent inspections: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) Inspection of the Blackpool Youth Offending Service and the Ofsted Inspection of Blackpool Children’s Social Care Services. The overall judgement of both inspections had been inadequate. It was noted that the response to the Inspection of the Youth Offending Service was more developed to that of the Ofsted Inspection and that the full feedback from the Ofsted Inspection had not yet been received.


The Committee referred to the Youth Justice Report received at its meeting in September 2018, and raised concerns that that report had not accurately reflected the position of the Youth Offending Service, demonstrated by the inspection judgement two months later. Mrs Booth advised that a number of perceived inaccuracies in the inspection report had been challenged but not accepted with the inspectorate and that the Service recognised the significant challenges posed.


In relation to the nine recommendations made in the HMIP Inspection Report, Members queried the role of partners in ensuring improvement. In response, Mrs Booth advised that the role of partners was key and that the governance arrangements of the Youth Offending Service had been refreshed and now included higher level leadership from all partners. Councillor Blackburn, Leader of the Council added that a series of meetings had been held with partners and expectations with regards to improvement had been made clear. He also highlighted the involvement and support of the Youth Justice Board and the work being carried out with staff in the Service to map skills and identify training requirements.


Members discussed the importance of staff morale and the ability of the Council to attract good quality staff to key roles in Children’s Services. It was considered that the judgement of staff morale was subjective and could vary dependent on the staff member interviewed by the inspectorate. However, it was important to ensure that all staff were supported and had good leadership.


The Committee went on to consider the point at which it was determined that a young person could no longer be kept out of the criminal justice system. Councillor Blackburn advised that the Minister of Justice had not been persuaded that the Police had been doing everything possible to keep young people out of the criminal justice system and that increased engagement with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire was being sought with the aim of increasing the number of diversionary projects on offer and improving the recording of rapid assessments made by Police Officers when disposing of a reported crime. It was noted that once a young person had a criminal record, they were more at risk of becoming a victim.


In reference to the Ofsted Inspection of Children’s Social Services, Members queried the next steps. Mrs Booth advised that an Independent Commissioner would be appointed to work with services in Blackpool over a period of 12 weeks in order to make an assessment about the ability of services to improve quickly and sustain that improvement. She referred to the additional funding of £1.2 million that had been made available to provide rapid and longer term interventions. A number of additional posts had been created, however, the challenge would be filling those positions with suitable candidates.


Councillor Blackburn highlighted that a number of accuracies within the Ofsted report had been challenged, with some accepted by the inspectorate. He advised that he had not been interviewed as part of the process, but that the political leadership had still been found to be inadequate. He also highlighted that key partners had not been interviewed as part of the inspection. It had therefore been difficult to evidence some aspects of the inspection framework.


In addition, Ms Kara Haskayne, Head of Safeguarding and Principal Social Worker highlighted the recent introduction of a new quality assurance framework alongside appropriate training. Members raised concern that a basic standard of recording and demonstrating impact was looking at how services had made a difference to the life of the young person being supported. In response, it was noted that impact on a life had also been considered, but the new framework ensured that information was now being recorded in an auditable and evidenced form.


It was reported that a 12 week plan had been developed in order to immediately commence work on improvements and that the Council had not wished to delay work to wait for the full Ofsted report. Once all the information behind the judgements was known, the plan for improvement could be revisited. Councillor Blackburn added that following the inspection, officers had undertaken additional auditing on additional cases in order to ensure no child was at risk of harm. He added that the full plan for improvement would be made available to the Committee once it had been completed.


The Committee specifically referred to the previous necessary interventions of the Director of Children’s Services in individual cases and queried if these interventions had prevented focus on more strategic issues. In response, Mrs Booth advised that the number of individual cases she had input into had significantly reduced due to the appointment to a number of Head of Service positions. She advised that she still undertook random auditing, but had delegated appropriate work to capable managers, ensuring that sufficient time was available to lead whole system and strategic improvement.


In response to a question, Mrs Booth advised that she considered it the role of the Scrutiny Committee to continue to seek information on improvements being made and to use the completed improvement plan to shape the work undertaken, avoiding duplication with the Children’s Improvement Board. She added that the Shadow Improvement Board had welcomed the visit from Members of the Committee and suggested that Members continue to play a vital role in ensure staff felt supported by meeting with the Board on a regular basis.


The Committee agreed:

To receive the Improvement Plan when completed and use it to inform the workplan of the Committee for the 2019/2020 Municipal Year.

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