Birmingham Children’s Social Services “not fit for purpose”

Children’s Social Services at the UK’s largest local authority have been branded as “not fit for purpose”. An enquiry undertaken by Birmingham City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee concluded, among other findings, that accommodation for some children and young people caused many members of the inquiry team to be “shock and dismayed at the standard”.

Children’s Social Services at the UK’s largest local authority have been branded as “not fit for purpose”. An enquiry undertaken by Birmingham City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee concluded that:

  • There was a major risk posed by a lack of capacity at senior management level.
  • The learning and development resource is inadequate, hampering staff retention due to a lack of professional development opportunities.
  • Recruitment and retention of staff is a key area of concern, with an over reliance on agency staff.
  • Accommodation for some children and young people caused many members of the inquiry team to be “shock and dismayed at the standard”.
  • There is a lack of clarity over contacts and what constitutes a referral and which referrals should have an initial assessment.
  • Standards in children’s social services varied across the city, with the quality of case files for looked after children deemed inadequate.
  • Serious shortfalls were found in the performance of in-house residential services.

The report was commissioned by OFSTED, after it emerged that at least 18 children, known to Birmingham Social Services had died over the past four years. Publishing the report, the Chair of the Inquiry team, Cllr Len Clark concluded:

“Many of the findings of this children’s social care inquiry will not make comfortable reading for the Council. This was not the intent. But if we are to make sustainable progress and not just short term fixes, we must address the underlying issues identified in our report. This must be the city council’s top priority.”

Responding, Birmingham’s Conservative Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, Cllr Les Lawrence said:

“There is no quick fix to the problems highlighted, some of which affect all councils nationally, such as the recruitment and retention of social workers.

“However, I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure we provide the best possible care to the children and young people of this city.”

Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, John Hemming concluded:

“This report confirms what I have known for a long time. There is a lot of really bad practice going on.

“Eighteen children have died in Birmingham in the past four years. It is not a question of how quickly social workers can make a decision, which the governments seems to think is important, it is more a question of the quality of the decisions being made.”

Following the tragic death of Baby P, this the news from Birmingham will alarm still further child protection and family campaigners that lessons still aren’t being learnt on improving child protection. The news follows the launch of the Help Give Them A Voice campaign, aimed at highlighting the positive stories associated with Social Work.

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