Young people leaving the care system in Gloucestershire are still being let down by ‘inadequate’ services, Ofsted inspectors have found.

Too many teenagers are not continuing their education or are failing to find jobs, with a lack of mental health care leading to some ending up in hospital or custody.

Opposition politicians say Gloucestershire County Council is ‘not doing enough’ to support vulnerable young people, despite the council’s insistence that it is aware of the areas which need improvement.

Care leavers are children who leave the care system when they turn 18 but are still under the care of an authority until they are 25 years old.

Following a monitoring visit in September, Ofsted said a number of recommendations from their last visit had been progressed, but added some areas still need further work.

The inspection is Ofsted’s seventh monitoring visit of the authority’s department since it was rated “inadequate” in 2017.

They found that response arrangements for allegations against adults who work or volunteer with children are “underdeveloped” and “not yet sufficiently rigorous”.

Ofsted found that most care leavers benefit from regular visits and enjoy positive, trusting relationships with social workers, although support is not effective in all areas.

The majority of young people have plans in place for when they leave care, but Ofsted found that the quality of plans varied, and that they were not routinely updated when young people’s circumstances changed.

Ofsted also found that not all care leavers had access to timely mental health provision and that they are not routinely provided with information to help them understand the history of their own health.

In the report, published on Monday, Ofsted inspector Nicola Bennett said: “There is still more to do to improve services to care leavers and consistency of practice, particularly management oversight, the quality and relevance of pathway plans and timeliness of interventions.

"Pathway plans are not aspirational, and actions are not sufficiently clear about what is required, by whom and by when.

“As a result, pathway plans are not an effective tool to fully assess young people’s needs or to measure progress, and some young people experience delays in their needs being met.

“The local authority has very recently developed a new pathway planning tool kit, which includes a revised pathway plan. However, it is not yet in use.

“In the absence of a clear mental health pathway, there are often delays in young people receiving appropriate interventions, leading to a deterioration in their circumstances, such as hospitalisation or custody.

“Care leavers are not provided with important information about their health histories and there is confusion and an absence of ownership regarding who is responsible for providing this.

“This is concerning, particularly where some care leavers experience long-term health issues.”

Councillor Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Whilst it is pleasing that Ofsted recognise areas of progress, it’s clear that we have more to do and must work even harder to achieve the level of consistency needed to make a step change in performance.

“We are committed to making sure children and young people are kept safe and have the same opportunities as every child in the county.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Colin Hay,  spokesman for children and families, said: “Despite the extraordinary efforts by our dedicated social workers – two and a half years after being placed in special measures, the latest report lays bare how GCC’s Children’s Services continue to fall short in a ‘number of areas’.

“The continued failings are not good enough and with just months to go until the follow-up inspection from Ofsted is due, the public will rightly want to know why we’re still not seeing all of the improvements Ofsted expects and our vulnerable children and their families deserve.”

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