Leicester children's services has 'serious failures', says Ofsted

Vi Dempster
Image caption Former assistant mayor Vi Dempster said she had been "misled" about the situation

Leicester's children's services has "widespread or serious failures", according to a new Ofsted report.

Inspectors who visited Leicester City Council found children were "at risk of harm" with managers "ineffective" in making improvements.

Earlier this month, the department boss was sacked and the assistant mayor resigned after problems came to light.

A new director has since been appointed and an independent improvement board established to monitor progress.

During an inspection in January, Ofsted found areas including children leaving care and children in need of help and protection were inadequate.

The Leicester Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) was also rated inadequate for failing to spot the authority's problems.

Inspectors said failures in leadership and a poorly managed restructure led to services deteriorating and a backlog of 293 cases.

'Fragile situation'

The report said: "Too many children have experienced delay because of numerous changes of social worker or because they have not had a social worker allocated to them in a timely manner.

"As a result, children remain in potentially harmful and unsafe situations, at risk of neglect and emotional abuse for too long before plans are put in place to reduce the harm they may experience.

Image caption Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said for months the council had failed to protect vulnerable children

"Weak and inconsistent management oversight leaves poor practice unchallenged and children's needs unmet."

Problems began after a departmental reorganisation in May during which 30 out of 62 social workers left. That lead to increased workloads for those remaining and cases left unallocated.

City mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby said he only became aware of "the crisis" in December and, after an internal review, sacked department head Elaine McHale.

Assistant mayor, Vi Dempster, who had overall responsibility for the department, then stepped down.

She previously said: "As far as I was concerned the situation was fragile but it was being managed.

"Somebody must have known somewhere in the organisation that there was a backlog ..... and the situation was not as I was being told."

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