Wirral Council’s Children’s Services branded “inadequate” by OFSTED
I’ll declare at the outset that I was the Appellant in the First-Tier Tribunal case referred to later.
I’ve just read the 44 page inspection report by OFSTED into services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers which you can read on OFSTED’s website.
The inspection was carried out in July 2016 and the headlines (these are quoted from the report) are:
“1. Children who need help and protection
2. Children looked after and achieving permanence
2.1 Adoption Performance
2.2 Experiences and progress of care leavers
1. Leadership, management and governance
The report then goes on to explain the many reasons why and starts with the sentence, “There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection in Wirral.” and perhaps even more telling makes this point about senior management and councillors, “Almost all of the deficits identified in this inspection were known by senior leaders.”
And in response to a certain senior manager at Wirral Council who repeatedly states the Council acts in the best interests of children, “Plans to restructure services to respond better to children’s needs were delayed for a year due to competing council priorities.”
However I don’t want you to think I’m cherry-picking negative criticism from the report. If you read the report you’ll find it has very little to state that is positive.
After all this sentence, “Performance management data is widely scrutinised by managers and elected members, but is not yet leading to improvement and is not always focused on the right things.” sums it up. People (whether that be councillors or managers) know about the problems, but seemingly don’t know (or if I’m being more charitable are thwarted from) fixing them.
The infamous report into Wirral Council by Anna Klonowski Associates explained how in years gone by Wirral Council received independent reports similar to these but just carried on (whereas in other councils it would’ve raised red flags and led to major alarm bells ringing).
Of course it remains to be seen what Wirral Council’s response to this is. An Improvement Board has been mentioned (but if it meets in private as the one before did) the public won’t know about the changes Wirral Council is making in response and to be able to hold their political leaders to account.
And let’s face it, a Council that is prepared to go to a Tribunal to make sure some of the views of senior councillors, union representatives and senior managers at a meeting held in secret about education are kept out of the public domain in response to a FOI request, is that a Council acting in an “open and transparent” way or one that knows about its problems but wants to keep them out of the public domain?
The OFSTED inspection report is due to be discussed by councillors on Wirral Council’s Children Sub-Committee at a public meeting this Thursday evening (22nd September 2016) in Committee Room 2 in Wallasey Town Hall starting at 6.00pm.
Oh and just to quell any rumours, no I don’t have any children but Wirral Council’s external auditor Grant Thornton are reviewing the impact of the OFSTED report on their Value for Money conclusion which goes to be considered at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee on Monday 26th September starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall.
As I wish to end on a positive note Committee Rooms 1, 2 (and I’m told also Committee Room 3) on the ground floor at Wallasey Town Hall are now able to be better accessed by those in wheelchairs or those with reduced mobility due to changes recently made to the doors to these rooms at this listed building.
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