JS57113502Ofsted has today released a damning report into Tower Hamlet’s Children’s Services, rating the department ‘inadequate’ after uncovering ‘serious and widespread failings’ towards those children most in need of help and protection. [Report – click here]

Tower Hamlets Conservative group is deeply worried by this assessment but grateful to Ofsted for its vital investigation into the borough’s Children’s Services. Ofsted’s report is the wake-up call the borough needs, not least as the recent departure of Government Commissioners risks the view taking hold that it’s ‘job done’ in cleaning up Tower Hamlets after the misdeeds of former Mayor, Lutfur Rahman.

Ours is a fantastic borough with a lively, engaged community and huge human and economic resource. It has all the tools to become a beacon of civic excellence. Yet its Labour administration provides poor services to residents in far too many areas, lazily excusing itself through reference to the Rahman regime or central government spending constraints. Labour councillors have suggested many of the problems in Children’s Services stem from the misconceived merger of the Adult and Children teams under Rahman. There is little doubt that the merged department was unwieldy and unmanageable, but Ofsted’s report points to a much deeper, cultural problem within the service alongside poor governance and decision-making.

I sit on the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee, which is designed to shine a light on Tower Hamlets’ performance. In order to scrutinise the organisation, however, you necessarily must rely upon it for information and data, while looking to officers for guidance on the scope of their work. As Ofsted’s report advises, in the case of Children’s Services performance data was inaccurate, unreliable or unreported.

Tower Hamlets committees are a whirlwind of words, stats, figures, presentations, reams of paperwork and confected political rows. However this illusion of scrutiny distracts from any strategic focus on outcomes for borough residents. Similarly, officers often tell me that they cannot act on various ward requests because they are waiting to draw up a plan, get approval for a recommendation or go out to consultation on an idea – an illusion of activity that all too often simply camouflages inertia.

Ofsted cites this sense of ‘chronic drift and delay’ in its own report. While it is intolerable in every area of the council’s work, it is surely utterly unacceptable when it comes to making decisions about the most vulnerable children in our community.


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