Yesterday the Government announced moves to enable failing Council children’s services departments to be taken over more easily. The framework for take overs has been speeded up and formalised, as this BBC article describes.
The process has already begun in Sunderland where the children’s services will now become a voluntary Trust with experts being sent in to run the department. An Ofsted inspection found serious and widespread failings in Sunderland including one case where a child had been hurt by her father and a second had drowned in the bath after concerns had not been properly dealt with.
This could be a major development as Ofsted figures show that 19 out of 74 Councils it inspected between February 2014 and September 2015 were inadequate. Potentially 25% of all Councils therefore could face intervention.
By coincidence Lancashire County council were Ofsted inspected in November and their children’s services labelled as “inadequate” in a report that was described by the Tory Group as “shameful”. If Lancashire do not improve over the next six months they may also therefore be taken over by high performing Councils or charities.
This development is interesting to a department which specialises in claims on behalf of children who have been let down by Social Services.
It clearly shows a continuing trend of failure by Social Services departments. Children are repeatedly being let down by Social Services. The Today programme dealt with this story and the interviewee suggested it is not necessarily a problem that needs more money throwing at it but is rather a problem that needs to be addressed by better qualified and more experienced individuals from high performing Councils. This is possibly echoed with Lancashire County Council, that suggest one of the main reasons for the inadequacy of their services is a new computer system they installed which has made the task of social workers harder rather than easier. Maybe Lancashire would have been better spending the cost of the computer system on additional social workers to ease the plight of children in the County.
From personal experience specialising in this area of work I know of solicitors in one local Council who actually keep dairies of the work they are required to carry out because they are so concerned of mistakes being made. They live in a climate of fear of failing in their job because of the volume of work and the lack of support.
The Government therefore seem to recognise that children’s services up and down the Country are continuing to fail those they should be protecting and the plan to take positive action must be welcomed if it goes someway to prevent the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect that we see all too often in the children we act for in claims against Social Services.