Children's social care services in Birmingham have improved on their rating of 'inadequate' for the first time in a decade, it has been revealed.

Following a series of high profile deaths, including that of Khyra Ishaq, the service was rated inadequate back in 2008.

But, following changes to the structure of the service, which saw Birmingham's Children's Trust take over responsibility for the board in April 2018, the service was ranked as 'requires improvement to be good' in all areas of its most recent inspection.

Four children known to the children's care services died between 2003 and 2015, with seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq starving to death in 2008 and 18-month-old Keegan Downer being beaten to death by her legal guardian in 2015.

Keegan Downer was just 18 months old when she was battered to death by her foster mum.
Keegan Downer was just 18 months old when she was battered to death by her foster mum.
 

However the new report, written off the back of an inspection in December 2018, says that sustained work since 2016 has seen a marked improvement in the service being offered to the public.

"Considerable and focused work has resulted in a more effective response to the needs of children and families at the point of contact," the report notes.

"Significant improvements now ensure that all domestic abuse incidents are evaluated quickly and that there is clear identification of and an effective response to child protection issues.

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"Most children in care live in stable placements, but for some children where adoption is not planned, there is delay in achieving permanence.

"Young people who are leaving care and unaccompanied asylum seeking children receive a good service that meets their needs and ensures that they receive support to thrive and become independent."

 

However, despite its improvement in a number of areas, the report by Oftsed also notes that the service still has a long way to go before it can adequately address the needs of the children and families it deals with.

In particular, it made reference to a need for improvement in:

  • The quality, effectiveness and pace of partnership working with external agencies, including partner-led early help services.
  • Trust and confidence between the courts and Birmingham Children's Trust.
  • Effectiveness of the fostering service.
  • Robust and timely focus on all permanence options for children.
  • Alignment of the approach to contextual safeguarding.
  • The impact of the virtual school in improving provision for children in care.

Given its record of a decade of inadequate ratings, the newly published report gives cause for optimism. However, Chair of Birmingham Children’s Trust Andrew Christie was quick to point out that there was still much work to do.

Newly appointed chairman of Birmingham Children's Trust Andrew Christie with council cabinet member for Children's Services Brigid Jones

“When the Children’s Trust began life in April 2018, we were determined to inject pace into the improvement of children’s social care services in Birmingham," he said.

"This inspection indicates we are making the necessary progress but that we have much more still to do.

“We now have a stable workforce, with low rates of agency social workers, lower turnover, more social workers joining us and fewer leaving the trust, and as the inspection notes our staff know their children well and go the extra mile.

“Working with the city council and with the other agencies in the city, we are no less determined to make further progress and deliver good children's services."