BLOG: Surrey’s Children’s Services newest Ofsted verdict should impact the outcome of the forthcoming election

April 24, 2021 2:47 PM
By Zoe Franklin

Yesterday the news broke that the verdict of Ofsted's most recent monitoring visit to Surrey County Council's Children's Services would not be published until after the election on Thursday 6th May. The explanation for this from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills is that "it is normal practice to delay publication until after an election so as not to influence the result".

Young person with bruised eye (Photo by cottonbro from Pexels)Personally, I think that the outcome should be published before the election because the quality of public service should impact the outcome of the election.

Surrey County Council has an appalling record in terms of Children's Services. As early as 2008 the service was judged inadequate and told that it must improve. It was just inadequate again in 2014 and then again in 2018. Below is the first paragraph of the 2018 report's executive summary which makes thoroughly depressing reading:

Senior leaders and elected members in Surrey have been far too slow to accept and act on the findings and recommendations of the 2014 inspection, and to respond with the required urgency to the findings of several subsequent monitoring visits. Too many of the most vulnerable children in the county are being left exposed to continuing harm for long periods of time before decisive protective actions are taken. Children and their families experience repeated assessments and interventions in different parts of the service, often over periods of many years, and these do not achieve sustainable changes. Frontline managers and social workers do not routinely analyse family histories and the negligible impact of earlier phases of help. This results in children experiencing continued neglectful parenting, often including exposure to domestic abuse, and leaving them vulnerable to both acute and longer-term risk through corrosive damage to their social, emotional, physical, and educational development.

It is clear from the reports by Ofsted and the Independent Children's Commissioner Trevor Doughty that were published in January that things are improving. You can read more here.) However, many months on from that report and through the challenging circumstances of the pandemic the residents of Surrey deserve to be reassured that this progress has continued. The work done by Children's Services is crucial. When done effectively it protects vulnerable children from physical, emotional, and mental harm and helps struggling families. However, when it is not, children and families are left at risk and it is our schools, the NHS, and our communities that are left to pick up the pieces and the cost. We need to know that Surrey's Children's Services are continuing to improve. If they are then we can all agree that this is excellent news. But, the report that is being kept under wraps provides that information.

We shouldn't have to just accept the unsubstantiated words of the Conservative cabinet member for children, young people and families when she says "verbal feedback confirmed that we've continued to progress". The people of Surrey have a right to know before the election whether Surrey's Conservative leadership is running Children's Services properly, cost-effectively, and protecting vulnerable children. They have a right to be able to judge the Conservative leadership at Surrey County Council based on this report. That is exactly what elections are for and the Government is demonstrating a clear contempt towards both the people of Surrey and democracy itself by withholding the report.

You can read the Guildford Dragon article on the report here: https://www.guildford-dragon.com/2021/04/23/verdict-on-ofsted-childrens-services-visit-kept-under-wraps-until-after-election/

24th April 2021