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Ofsted finds Tower Hamlets council didn’t know if children were ‘trafficked or abandoned’

PUBLISHED: 11:00 07 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:27 07 April 2017

Tower Hamlets Council

Tower Hamlets Council

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Widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children in London’s East End who need help and protection from Tower Hamlets council have been revealed in a shock report this-morning from Ofsted inspectors.

Mayor John BiggsMayor John Biggs

Too many “remain in situations of actual or potential harm” because of insufficient scrutiny by the council’s chief executive, the children’s services director and politicians, the report points out.

Inspectors found a lack of understanding in private fostering arrangements which failed to consider whether children had been trafficked or abandoned by their parents.

Tower Hamlets is taking “immediate steps to improve children’s services”, the local authority has told the East London Advertiser.

It “fully accepts” Ofsted’s damning findings and is making it “an absolute priority to meet all the recommendations”.

Mayor John BiggsMayor John Biggs

Services for children in care or in need of adoption and those leaving council care “are not yet good enough”, says Ofsted.

Some services have significantly deteriorated since the last inspection in 2012.

“This situation is clearly unacceptable,” Mayor John Biggs told the Advertiser today.

“I have made it clear to the chief executive and the Children’s Services corporate director that they must take immediate action to improve the service.”

The Mayor (right) and Chief Excuitive Will Tuckley at a Tiower Hamlets council meetingThe Mayor (right) and Chief Excuitive Will Tuckley at a Tiower Hamlets council meeting

Many failings stem from reorganisations with the merger of adults’ services and children’s services in 2013 under the previous mayor, Lutfur Rahman, later banned from office by the High Court for election malpractice.

“The Ofsted report confirms many of the issues that we have uncovered since the previous Mayor was removed from office,” Mayor Biggs added. “But it goes much further in identifying other problems and that the pace of improvement hasn’t been fast enough.”

The council is investing an extra £4.8m in children’s services to achieve the improvement Ofsted expects.

Tower Hamlets has only just got out of ‘special measures’ with government commissioners who were keeping check on spending having left the Tower Hall last week.

Government commissioner Sir Ken Knight overseeing council grant-making committee, sitting with Cllr Rachael Saunders (right), cabinet member responsible for Children's ServicesGovernment commissioner Sir Ken Knight overseeing council grant-making committee, sitting with Cllr Rachael Saunders (right), cabinet member responsible for Children's Services

Four commissioners were sent in led by Sir Ken Knight in December, 2014, who found lack of transparency and accountability. Labour regained control of the authority in 2015.

Ofsted found “insufficient rigour in challenging weak management oversight” despite uncovering a “deeply worrying picture” of services to children.

Tower Hamlets is putting an extra £4.8million into children’s services this year and has appointed two experienced senior managers.

The mayor who took over 2015 immediately hired a new chief executive, Will Tuckley—filling a two-year vacancy—and a new children’s services corporate director, Debbie Jones, Ofsted’s former social care director.

Tower Hamlets Chief Executive Will TuckleyTower Hamlets Chief Executive Will Tuckley

They identified problems caused by “the disastrous merger” of adults’ and children’s services in 2013 under Rahman, with thresholds for child intervention set too high.

Mr Tuckley said: “Debbie Jones and I take full responsibility for this Ofsted report and will be making it an absolute priority to improve the service.

“We have found more and more problems with the service and have made improvements, but they have not been fast or comprehensive enough.”

The Ofsted report demonstrated “the full scale of work needed” which has now led to the council creating an improvement plan to meet Ofsted’s recommendations.

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