BIRMINGHAM has been ordered to conduct fresh reviews into whether Child Protection Services let down three children who were seriously hurt or killed.
The city council was ordered to look at the cases again by Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, after inspectors found the original inquiries had been unsatisfactory.
It was one of a number of authorities criticised for failing to review child protection cases properly in a study by Ofsted, the official inspectors.
Ofsted published the findings as a separate report into the death of Baby P in Haringey, London, also warned that a review into the baby’s case had been inadequate.
The study looked at serious case reviews, which are conducted by child protection services when a child has died or been seriously injured or harmed, and abuse is known or believed to have been a factor. By examining what went wrong, officials such as social workers are supposed to learn lessons to help them protect children in the future.
But Ofsted examined four reviews conducted in Birmingham since April 2007 – and found that three had been inadequate.
Inspectors also looked at one case review in Sandwell, which was also inadequate. Reviews conducted by Walsall, Worcestershire and Warwickshire councils were given the seal of approval.
Mr Balls said “further action” was needed, and ordered councils to set up new panels, with independent chairmen, to reconsider the findings of the review.
Ofsted warned that in some cases, reviews had taken up to three years to complete, and they were often carried out by representatives of the agencies responsible for looking after the child in the first place. There was a tendency to avoid assigning blame, with reviews looking at what went wrong but failing to explain why, Ofsted said.
The inspectors warned: “A fundamental shift of approach is required with a greater emphasis on the practice of individual members of staff and managers.”
Birmingham has been involved in high-profile cases in which children have died over the past year.
In May, seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq died after being admitted to hospital. Her
mother, Angela Gordon, 34, and partner Junaid Abuhamza, 30, both of Leyton Road, Handsworth, are facing charges of murder and neglect over the death.
In March, two-year-old Brandon Davis died in Birmingham Children’s Hospital after apparently overdosing on methadone. Reviews are conducted by “Local Safeguarding Children Boards”, which include health services and police as well as social workers.
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “Since April 2007, we have had a grading of ‘inadequate’ against three out of four of the serious case reviews reviewed. This was before we were informed how Ofsted would judge them.
“For example, if the chair was a member of the local safeguarding children board, the review would not now be considered independent. In response, since January 2008, all serious case reviews have had independent chairs.
“An inadequate judgement can be due to delays in completing a serious case review. Such delays are often due to the need to wait for criminal proceedings to finish – a factor that is acknowledged in Ofsted’s 2007-08 annual report, and that has been reinforced in public statements by the Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families.”
The most recent review had been judged adequate by inspectors, the spokesman said.