Child protection in crisis in Northamptonshire

Neglected lonely child
Neglected lonely child

A damning report on child protection is expected to give Northamptonshire the lowest possible rating following a watchdog inspection.

Ofsted uncovered failings during an inspection earlier this month of children’s services covering the police, the NHS and children’s social services.

It is understood its findings included children being left for “two to three days” in police cells without the knowledge of guardians, rather than being transferred into the care of a local authority home or remand foster parents.

The findings have prompted a second inspection, which Ofsted has been conducting this week.

It has also emerged that Janet Galley, independent chairman of the Local Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire, has resigned.

A Chronicle & Echo source said: “To say the draft of the first report is bad is an understatement.

“It judges children’s services to be ‘inadequate’, the lowest rating, in every category. It will say the county council sometimes did not respond for a day or more when children in its care were held by the police. Ofsted also found that sometimes nobody intervened when adults were in custody, leaving children home alone.”

‘Inadequate’ ratings normally mean the area does not meet minimum requirements. Ofsted stipulated the full voluntary inspection report would not be published, but Northamptonshire County Council has vowed to publish the inspectors’ findings and its responses to them.

The report from this week’s emergency inspection is understood to be under no such restriction. A source said: “You’ve now got to look at whether we are failing children through lack of funding for important child protection staff. This report highlights there is now a clash between what is acceptable and what is affordable.”

Ofsted said the full inspection report would not be published because it was a pilot exercise and as such there was a chance the findings “may not be valid”.

A children’s outreach worker has said cuts to statutory services were letting children down in Northamptonshire.

Bianca Todd, of the Community Courtyard organisation , said Northamptonshire County Council was not able to do enough for young people.

She said: “We are having to be funded by St James and Spring Boroughs Residents’ Association because the county council won’t recognise what we do.

“Yet we understand what services young people on the streets need . The reason why the council don’t is they don’t have enough staff doing outreach work, and the staff who do have massive case loads.

“Its attitude to deprived young people has the feel of a tick box exercise and that hasn’t been good enough for a long time.”