Council officials have raised doubts over plans to outsource Birmingham’s children’s homes following two new damning Ofsted inspections.
Two privately-run children’s homes in Birmingham have been slammed by the education watchdog – with one deemed “inadequate” and its staff criticised for failing to try to find youngsters when they went missing.
In Ofsted’s latest inspection the home run by Hertfordhsire-based CareTech Community Services, which has not been named by Ofsted for legal reasons, was found to have “widespread failures”.
The home – which did not look after any children under the care of Birmingham City Council – has now stopped caring for children and accommodates adults only.
Meanwhile, a second home run by Woodlands House (Birmingham), which has also not been named, was deemed to “require improvement”.
The council confirmed it does fund the home to care for a “small number” of youngsters and was “aware of the issues”.
The news comes after five children’s homes were closed in Birmingham in 2012 as the council looked to place more youngsters in foster care.
And last September the council revealed it had permanently closed two of its children’s homes when Ofsted inspectors found youngsters were frequently going missing.
Ofsted’s concerns over the two homes – Fairfield Children’s Home in Erdington and Bournbrook Children’s Home in Selly Oak – sparked a major review of council-run children’s homes.
The probe led the council to announce last September that an agency would be “outsourced” to take over the running of the city’s remaining five other children’s homes.
Now councillors have expressed concern in light of the latest Ofsted inspections whether privately-run homes would work.
Coun Matt Bennett, shadow cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Privately-run or not, the council still has a responsibility to those children to manage and understand what is going on in those homes.
“Clearly there has been a failure in these two homes that have been recently inspected and it is particularly worrying that the issue of children running away and going missing has been highlighted once again.
“I personally don’t care if homes are council-run or not, what I do care is that we get it right for the sake of these vulnerable children.”
The report into the home run by CareTech revealed: “Staff do not understand their role in protecting young people, particularly when missing from the home.
“They do not go looking for young people or keep in regular contact with them when they are away from the home.
“Some staff rely on police to resolve behavioural issues in the home.
“Others have been unable to prevent violence and harm between young people.”
Meanwhile, the home run by Woodlands House (Birmingham) had its leadership and management branded as “inadequate”, particularly for failing to ensure parts of the home were safe.
“For instance, broken glass in an outside lamp, staff cigarette ends in the play area and children and young people not able to access rooms and cupboards due to them being locked,” added the report.
It comes after it emerged earlier this year that former Birmingham City Council-run children’s home Uplands, in Blackwell, near Bromsgrove, is at the centre of a sex exploitation probe by police, with staff accused of failing to protect young girls from Asian paedophile gangs.
The authority has also controversially hired child protection boss Howard Woolfenden as assistant director from scandal-hit Rotherham council where he was linked to the closure of a group rescuing sexually exploited young girls.
And earlier this month a former Birmingham children’s home resident Danielle McKinney has told how she was sent to 39 different placements and raped three times before the age of 16.
It comes at a time when the council is one-year into a three-year improvement plan to turn around its failing child protection services.
In 2013, the department was branded a ‘national disgrace’ by the Government.
There has been a series of preventable child deaths including the notorious cases of Khyra Ishaq and Keanu Williams – both killed at the hands of their parents despite being known to social workers.
An extra £30 million has been ploughed in to the service and government troubleshooter Lord Norman Warner was brought in to oversee improvement.
His report is awaiting publication.
A council spokesman said: “We have a small number of young people placed with the Woodlands House (Birmingham) and are aware of the issues.
“The managers of the home are addressing the concerns and have shared their plans with the council and we will be checking on the progress in addressing the concerns raised in the report.
“The inspection identifies that the home has promoted education and re-engaged some young people who prior to placement had not attended school for some time.”
A spokesman for CareTech Community Services said: “We are committed to achieving the highest standards of care and the company’s own quality assurance system had picked up certain shortcomings at the care home prior to the Ofsted inspection.
“Action was being taken by CareTech at the time of the inspection and at no time was the young person at the home at risk.
“For reasons unrelated to the inspection it was decided, prior to publication of the inspection report, to reconfigure the property as a supported living service for adults.”
Woodlands House (Birmingham) was unavailable for comment.