Cumbria's children's services 'inadequate', Ofsted says

Children's services in Cumbria have been rated inadequate for the third time in four years.

Inspectors from Ofsted found "serious failures" in the care of looked-after youngsters, with leadership also criticised.

The county council said it was "determined to improve" .

The previous inspection, in 2013, found widespread problems and concluded delays in dealing with issues were so bad some children were at risk.

Although that is no longer the case, two areas of the council's services were judged to be inadequate with a further three requiring improvement.

'Not acceptable'

Anne Burns, the county councillor who has had responsibility for children's services since 2011, offered to step down but was asked by other cabinet members to stay on for the sake of stability.

Cumbria County Council's chief executive, Diane Wood, said: "This is not acceptable, it's not what we want at the county council, but we have to be realistic about the journey we've been on.

"We're working with nearly 3,400 children in need of specialist services. When we were inspected in 2013, that was around child protection. Ofsted said they couldn't be certain children were safe.

"We had to prioritise this area and that is 'now requires improvement' [from 'inadequate'] and we had to prioritise our work with the local safeguarding board and that is also 'now requires improvement' [from 'inadequate'].

"That has meant services to looked-after children hasn't been given a greater priority. That was realistically where we thought we could get to."

Gill Rigg, chairwoman of the independent Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: "My view is children are far safer now than they would have been a year ago."

John Macilwraith, corporate director for children's services, said recruiting and retaining staff was a problem, with vacancies and high levels of agency workers in some parts of the county.

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