THE organisation of an “inadequate” children's centre was so muddled during an Ofsted inspection it was unclear who was in charge, a damning report has said.

Inspectors said the situation at Mission Grove Children's Centre, in Buxton Road, Walthamstow, was so confusing they had to ask the council "to immediately clarify who is in charge”.

They also said leadership, activities, support services and the robustness of safeguarding measures were all failing to meet basic standards.

It comes after the council approved a controversial shake-up of its 17 children's centres last year, which has seen branches reorganised into "clusters" as services and staff are cut in an attempt to save £800,000 a year.

Ofsted said the changes have had a “negative impact” on families who use  Mission Grove for services including childcare, healthchecks and advice.

Mission Grove is currently in the process of merging with the Low Hall and Sybourn branches.

The council says the majority of children's centres in the borough are doing well and eight other branches inspected this year by Ofsted have all been rated good or outstanding.

The Ofsted report, published today, said: "The assessment of families’ needs [at the centre] across different target groups, including those identified as in most need of intervention and support, is inadequate.

"Partnerships with health and social care are not as strong as they previously were due to local reorganisation of services and this is beginning to impact negatively on the outcomes for families".

Ofsted said overall provision was satisfactory and it was confident that children were being kept safe.

The government watchdog praised staff who it said had “kept the centre active and enabled it to support some families” despite the uncertainties over who was in charge.

But its report added: “The process of working more closely with two other centres is unclear to everyone involved and for some months accountability has been limited.

“At the time of the inspection there was disagreement between the local authority and Mission Grove Primary School regarding who holds responsibility for the day-to-day management of the centre."

Ofsted also said the centre's capacity for improvement was inadequate and that the council had acknowledged its monitoring had been ineffective, particularly with regards to safeguarding.

Cllr Clare Coghill, the council's cabinet member for young people, said the report was “obviously very concerning”.

She added: “We have taken immediate action by transferring management over to Low Hall Children’s Centre.

“Low Hall was deemed ‘outstanding’ when it was last inspected and I am convinced good practice can quickly be instilled at Mission Grove in order to combat some of the issues highlighted in the report.”

No-one from the centre was available for comment.

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