THE number of Coventry children deemed at risk of abuse and neglect has soared to among the highest in the country.
The shocking statistic comes in the wake of the Daniel Pelka tragedy and a damning Ofsted report which rated the city’s child protection performance “inadequate”.
In 2011 watchdog Ofsted ruled Coventry’s number of children in council care was too high, and a key council action plan was launched to reduce it and a related financial deficit in children’s services.
But the Observer can reveal the number of kids taken away from their families and into council care remains stubbornly high at above 627.
And the number of youngsters assigned with social workers under Child Protection Plans, while remaining with their families, has rocketed from 636 in September last year to a staggering 854.
The figures, along with Government funding cuts, are contributing to an ongoing £4.5million financial deficit for children’s services – a third of which is attributed to spending on an ‘Ofsted Action Plan’ to reduce caseloads for social workers.
The plan included a six-figure contract to temporarily recruit agency staff to do additional social work.
Employing an agency social worker costs £67,000 while a staff social worker costs £37,000.
The latest plan is to replace costly agency staff with more in-house staff under a ‘Do It For Daniel’ recruitment campaign, which will also save vital cash for the department.
Labour councillor Ed Ruane, cabinet member for children and young people, said the council has commissioned a report to see if it was ‘making the correct judgements’ before setting up Child Protection Plans.
Coun Ruane added: “The problem should have been kept on top of a long time ago when the Government was taking money out of children’s services.
“It shouldn’t have taken Ofsted to come in to tell us there shouldn’t be 60 cases per social worker.”
Council officers have reported a sharp increase in children being labelled at risk of domestic violence in Coventry since the serious case review into four-year-old Daniel Pelka’s death in March 2012 which found child protection agencies including social workers, teachers, doctors and the police had all failed to intervene or spot his abuse at the hands of his mother Magdelena Luczak and stepfather Mariusz Krezolek.
Two years ago, Coventry City Council tried unsuccessfully to cut the numbers of children in care with plans which included an extra £2million spending on “early intervention” teams, which spot potential problems in vulnerable families early on before they escalate.