In a significant blow, the Children’s services at Peterborough City Council (PCC) have received the lowest possible rating of ‘Inadequate’ from Ofsted, according to a comprehensive report released on January 30. This marks a notable decline from the previous inspection in 2018 when it attained a ‘Good’ rating. The report highlights a deterioration in the quality of practice and the experiences of children and young people under the council’s care.
Ofsted, the regulatory body overseeing educational and social care institutions, noted that there has been a decline in the quality of practice and in the overall experience and progress of children and young people. This decline, the report states, was only identified relatively recently, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
The council’s director for children’s services expressed regret, acknowledging that the current standard of children’s services in Peterborough falls short of what it should be. The report now places PCC under the monitoring of Ofsted, with a stipulated 70 days for the council to submit a comprehensive improvement plan.
The Ofsted report points to a lack of priority given to the resourcing of essential services, leading to significant capacity shortfalls within the sector. The joint service arrangement with Cambridgeshire County Council, which concluded last year, further complicated matters. The report identifies this lack of leadership focus as a major contributing factor to the current state of affairs.
One of the most alarming revelations in the report concerns young people who have grown up in care. It states that a “small but significant” number of them are not in suitable accommodation, resorting to sofa surfing or living in bed and breakfasts. The report raises concerns about the mental health of care leavers, emphasizing the need for personal advisor support. It discloses that homeless 16- and 17-year-olds did not receive a timely response in line with the local authority’s responsibilities, resulting in some children’s care needs going unmet.
Ofsted’s report also draws attention to shortcomings in the emergency duty service, citing it as “too limited” out of hours. This limitation forces partner agencies, including the police, to manage situations without adequate social work support. Furthermore, the report highlights practitioner uncertainty regarding the threshold for disabled children to access support from the dedicated ‘0–25’ service. This ambiguity sometimes leads to unqualified workers responding to situations that may escalate into child protection concerns, causing potential delays in their assessment.
However, amidst the concerning findings, the report acknowledges that the new leadership team at PCC has swiftly understood the magnitude of the required improvements. The report sees this as a promising foundation for improvement.
In response to the report, the council’s spokesperson stressed the council’s commitment to enhancing children’s services, labelling it a top priority. They mentioned ongoing investments in social work teams and collaborative efforts with partners in health, education, and other agencies to ensure timely and appropriate support for children and young people.
While the service was judged to ‘require improvement’ in most areas, the overall ‘inadequate’ rating underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive and swift turnaround in the children’s services provided by Peterborough City Council.
The Ofsted report paints a grim picture of the current state of children’s services at Peterborough City Council, highlighting systemic issues that have resulted in a decline in the quality of care and support provided. The ‘Inadequate’ rating is a stark contrast to the ‘Good’ rating in 2018, indicating a pressing need for urgent and substantial improvements. The acknowledgment of the council’s new leadership team’s quick understanding of the challenges and their commitment to improvement provides a glimmer of hope. However, the onus is now on Peterborough City Council to swiftly implement a comprehensive improvement plan within the given timeframe, ensuring that the welfare and future of the children and young people under their care remain the top priority.