A NEW report has branded Bexley Council’s children’s services "inadequate" in a number of key areas.  

The results of a two-week inspection carried out by Ofsted in July were published last Friday (August 24) and though the majority of judgements were positive, the council was rated only adequate or worse in 10 of 22 areas examined.

Five of these were judged grade four "inadequate" including the overall effectiveness of safeguarding services and both the quality of provision and leadership and management in safeguarding outcomes for children and young people.

Efforts to ensure children "are safe and feel safe" were also given the lowest of four grades, and no area was awarded the top mark of "outstanding".

In rating the overall effectiveness of Bexley Council’s safeguarding services, the report said "effective action was not taken" in a number of cases with known child protection concerns, potentially leaving children at risk of "significant harm".

It also criticised the initial response to inspectors’ concerns as "slow", though action was eventually taken when an official returned from leave half way through the inspection. 

Ofsted did say the council had a "clear vision" for safeguarding children, though capacity for improvement was deemed only "adequate".

In rating quality of provision for safeguarding children as inadequate, the report said: "While inspectors saw evidence of some good multi-agency practice, in some child protection cases the quality of joint work was poor."

More than half Ofsted’s verdicts were "good", including the overall effectiveness of services for looked after children and the leadership and management of outcomes for these children and care leavers.

But council chief executive Will Tuckley apologised to residents "for the failure of some of these services to meet the standards our children deserve."

He said: "The rating we have received for our safeguarding services is not good enough and is very disappointing compared to the positive report on our services for looked after children and our ‘outstanding’ fostering services.

"We made a number of immediate changes to ensure that all our professional practice was up to the required standard and we have added extra actions to the improvement plan we already had in place.

"I am confident that we are in a strong position to address all the issues that Ofsted highlighted."

Bexley Council leader Councillor Teresa O'Neill said she was "disappointed that Ofsted found some examples of professional practice in safeguarding that were below acceptable standards."

She added: "Ensuring that the improvement plan is implemented and the issues Ofsted has identified are addressed, is our top priority."

Bexley has 53,806 children and young people making up nearly a quarter of the borough’s population.

As of March this year there were 1,255 cases open to social care teams, with 113 children subject to child protection plans and 238 being looked after by the council.

Ofsted reviewed 88 case files for children and young people when compiling the report.