CHILDREN’S services in the Dudley borough have “significant vulnerabilities”, an Ofsted visit has found.

Inspectors from Ofsted carried out a focused visit of children’s services at the local authority last month with the findings of the visit published this week in a letter by inspector Alison Smale to Catherine Knowles, interim director of children’s services at the local authority.

The letter, published on January 21, summarises the findings of the two-day visit which focused on assessments of plans to help children in need and those with safeguarding concerns.

In the letter, inspectors state that senior leaders acknowledge that the quality of social work practice has “deteriorated” since children’s service were last inspected in October 2018 and that “significant vulnerabilities” are apparent within the department due to positive actions not yet having an impact on services.

Her Majesty’s Inspector Alison Smale stated: “The new leadership team is very new, and actions taken and associated plans have not yet had an impact on services.

“As a result, there are significant vulnerabilities within the service, which mean that too many children do not have their needs assessed in a timely and effective way.

“Consequently, some children do not receive the right service to meet their needs when they need it, and they remain vulnerable for too long.”

The experiences of children subject to an assessment; children vulnerable to radicalisation and homeless young people were also examined.

An immediate review of all disabled children’s cases is set to be carried out, the letter states, after council chiefs acknowledged the concerns raised by the visit.

Inspectors reported how children with disabilities do not have regular re-assessments, with some children not receiving an assessment for several years. Inspectors said there may be children who have unassessed and unmet needs, which adds to their vulnerability.

Chiefs at children’s services have been told to improve in a number of areas, including the timeliness and quality of assessments; to ensure parents and children receive the right help at the right time; to recognise the impact of domestic abuse on children; to improve the response to children vulnerable to radicalisation and to offer more help to young people who are homeless.

Inspectors did acknowledge, however, how leaders know the service well and had accepted all feedback provided by inspectors during the visit.

The letter praised Ms Knowles, who arrived at the council in October last year, and new chief executive Kevin O’Keefe, saying the senior leadership team has been “strengthened” within the service.

The new senior management team was praised for bringing “energy and direction” and was said to be developing a “clear vision” for the service.

Inspectors noted an improvement in the recruitment and retention of social workers, adding that social workers were “overwhelmingly positive” about the changes being brought in by "visible" senior managers.

The report also acknowledged how work had already started to improve support given to young homeless people, the quality of emergency out of hours provision and strengthening professional development.

Council chiefs said the letter showed the department is "moving in the right direction".

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We have accepted all of the feedback provided by the inspectors during the course of this visit.

“We were aware of what we need to do to improve and this visit has reinforced that. We are already well along the road towards making the suggested improvements, although of course we recognise there is some way still to go.

“I think it’s important to highlight there were no safety concerns at all in the letter, or any implication that vulnerable children under the care of the council are unsafe.

“There were a lot of positives to indicate we are moving in the right direction and I have every confidence that our new senior management team will deliver, given time.”

The findings of the visit will be taken into account when Ofsted next inspects or visits the service.