An inspection into the Isle of Man’s Children’s and Families services has highlighted a number of areas of concern.

The document, published today by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), identified a number of concerns and areas where improvements were needed, with the risk of children falling into substance misuse and a lack of support for care leavers among key concerns.

Ofsted also noted that some of the service’s practices and processes created an ‘institutional feel to the environment’, and that current access to education for children in care or secure accommodation needed to be improved.

Ofsted staff were invited to the island by Manx Care at the end of April this year and spent around three weeks on the Isle of Man as part of the inspection.

Ofsted reviews usually provide service ratings however, Manx Care did not want the service to be scored, instead requesting information that could benefit the service.

In total, Ofsted found 11 headline issues resulting in 61 findings which needed to be addressed.

In the wake of the inspection, Manx Care have set up an ‘action plan’ in a bid to resolve the problems raised.

According to the healthcare provider, 26 of these actions have been completed so far while another 27 are ongoing. A further eight areas require financial input or resolution by other government departments or agencies.

Issues raised during the inspection included the lack of services for children with disabilities, foster carer recruitment, a lack of foster carers and homelessness in 16 year-olds and older.

However, Ofsted have flagged the risk of child exploitation as a stand-out issue for the service and inspectors said a more robust response was required to alleviate that risk.

Manx Care responded by saying: ‘We have developed a multi-agency response to the exploitation of young people across agencies.

‘This was in its infancy during the Ofsted visit and continues to develop.

‘Some initial changes were made to the process and oversight as suggested by Ofsted and we will be visiting other jurisdictions in October/November of 2023 to see how they have developed their responses and services in this area.’

Lawrie Hooper, minister for health and social care, said the report wasn’t a surprise for the department.

Lawrie Hooper, minister for health and social care (Other 3rd Party)

However, he did admit he was concerned about some of the findings.

He said: ‘I think there’s some obvious areas that we can talk about like care leavers legislation and care leavers accommodation, there’s a big challenge there. But the risk of exploitation is the most concerning area because I don’t think that needs a great deal of change in terms of legislation, that’s just about practice and process, and I think when you have children who are at risk of exploitation, that for me is quite a big worry.’

He said that there will be more inspections across the department of health and social care.

He added: ‘As part of the independent review into health care, one of the things we’ve established is external inspections of all of our services that are delivered by Manx Care, and Ofsted have been brought in by the department to do an inspection of this year’s children services.

‘There will be more inspection reports from other regulators in the near future as well as we get through these services. Our intention is that every single service will be inspected within the first five years of operation.

‘We’ve set something up called the children services improvement board which is an across government group and chaired independently that is going to produce an action plan that draws in other agencies like education, home affairs, the police, to make sure that what is done actually works because some of these issues, with exploitation being a prime example, actually are not simply a social services issue but a wider government issue’.

Julie Gibney, assistant director of children and family social work, added: ‘Exploitation was an issue, we had started to work in a certain way with other agencies to identify and provide interventions to these young people who were victims of that, and there’s still a long way to go but we are working towards that.

‘It’s a work in progress.’

She added that while she didn’t think the report was ‘damning’, it did show a lot of input was needed to improve the outcome for the younger generation.