OFSTED, CQC and HMICFRS require Wirral Council to prepare a written statement of action by 19th May 2023 addressing 4 areas of improvement in multi-agency safeguarding

OFSTED, CQC and HMICFRS require Wirral Council to prepare a written statement of action by 19th May 2023 addressing 4 areas of improvement in multi-agency safeguarding

OFSTED, CQC and HMICFRS require Wirral Council to prepare a written statement of action by 19th May 2023 addressing 4 areas of improvement in multi-agency safeguarding

                                                     

Left (foreground) - Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Serena Kennedy, Middle (foreground) - Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Emily Spurrell
Left (foreground) – Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Serena Kennedy, Middle (foreground) – Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Emily Spurrell

An joint inspection of OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), CQC (Care Quality Commission) and HMICFRS (His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services) has found four areas in which Wirral’s safeguarding arrangements need to improve.

In a letter dated 16th February 2023 to Simone White (Director for Children, Families and Education (Wirral Council)), Simon Banks (Place Director (Wirral) (NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership)), Emily Spurrell (Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner) and Serena Kennedy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police) the following areas were listed as needing to improve:-

  • How effectively the early help offer is further developed to ensure greater consistency of access for children across the local authority area.
  • The proportion of children receiving early help who benefit from a coordinated multi-agency plan to coordinate that support and to help ensure that it is as effective as possible.
  • How well the early help needs of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities are met.
  • The coordination of early help between education providers and the wider partnership.

Wirral Council (as the principal authority of the Wirral Local Safeguarding Partnership which involves Wirral Council, Merseyside Police and the NHS) is now required to prepare a written statement of action by 19th May 2023 addressing how the Local Safeguarding Partnership will address the findings of the joint inspection.

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Why after 2 years, 9 months and 13 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group?

Why after 2 years, 9 months and 13 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group?

                                                   

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

Before I start this epic tale, I would just like to point out that someone has started a petition demanding an apology from the Labour administration at Wirral Council for their answer at the last Council meeting about information requests and their poor record on FOI requests.

A long time ago (29th March 2013), I made this FOI request for the minutes of meetings that happen behind closed doors (not public meetings) for committees that councillors sit on. Part of this request (part 26) was for minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group.

I think it is better to provide a chronology at this stage as to how this part of the request went (references are to this part of the request).

29th March 2013 FOI request made.
29th April 2013 Internal review requested due to lack of reply.
30th April 2013 Internal review sent by Wirral Council. Request refused on cost grounds (section 12), but offer made to send minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group.
30th April 2013 Clarification over meaning of request sent/internal review as response on 30th April 2013 was first response.
30th July 2013 Internal review changes reason from cost grounds (section 12) to vexatious or repeated request (section 14).
14th August 2013 Decision appealed to Information Commissioner’s Office.
19th June 2014 Wirral Council amends reason for refusal from vexatious or repeated request (section 14) to cost grounds (section 12).
8th September 2014 ICO issue decision notice FS50509081. Decision notice overturns cost grounds (section 12) reason, finds Wirral Council failed to provide advice and assistance (section 16) and hasn’t responded to request within 20 days (section 10(1)). Wirral Council given 35 days to provide information or different reason.
4th November 2014 FOI request for minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group refused on section 40 (personal data) grounds.
12th November 2014 Internal review of 4th November 2014 decision requested.
30th April 2015 After ICO intervention Wirral Council replies. Wirral Council refuses internal review on section 14 (vexatious or repeated request) grounds.
Unknown date Decision appealed to ICO.
29th July 2015 ICO issued second decision notice (FS50569254). Decision notice overturns section 14 (vexatious or repeated request) reason for all of request except adoption/fostering panel part. Finds Wirral Council have breached section 10 (again).
3rd September 2015 Wirral Council respond to decision notice FS50569254. Minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group now refused on section 36 (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) and section 40 (personal data).
7th September 2015 Decision appealed to Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
11th January 2016 Wirral Council supply minutes of Safeguarding Reference Group held on 19th April 2011.

Wouldn’t it have just been easier (as they made the offer to send the minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group in April 2013) to supply these minutes then? How much officer time was wasted in refusing six pages of minutes on a committee that 7 councillors sat on and at least 5 senior managers (although one wasn’t present for the meeting).

The sixteen page serious case review about Child A, Child B, Child C & Child D referred to in the minutes dated 6th April 2011 can be found on Wirral Council’s website.

Three of the 7 councillors present are no longer councillors and at least three of the senior managers have either gone into early retirement or left Wirral Council.

There are 4 parts in the six pages of minutes where names have been blacked out. Did it really take 2 years, 9 months and nearly a fortnight to do this?

What was the point in spending over 2 years and 9 months refusing this request? The minutes they’ve supplied refer to a further meeting on the 20th July 2011 so although this is welcome, they may not be the right ones! I requested the minutes of the meeting immediately before my request on the 29th March 2013. Is the implication that the incoming minority Labour administration in 2011 scrapped the Safeguarding Reference Group (which was re-established on the 15th December 2014)? I’m not sure!

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The Klonowski Files (Part 2) First Improvement Plan and Care Quality Commission Inspection Report

The Klonowski Files (Part 2) First Improvement Plan and Care Quality Commission Inspection Report

The Klonowski Files (Part 2) First Improvement Plan and Care Quality Commission Inspection Report

                           

Appendices C and D to the Anna Klonowski Associates report were the First Improvement Plan and the Care Quality Commission Inspection Report.

The First Improvement Plan has a subheading of “for safeguarding adults; making a positive contribution for adults with a learning disability; increased choice and control for adults with a learning disability; providing leadership and commissioning and use of resources”.

It’s a long (fifty-three page) plan that details improvements Wirral Council was to make in twenty-one areas which states under governance “Cabinet will receive progress reports every two months” which is something that doesn’t seem to happen any more.

The twenty-one areas that Wirral Council needed to improve in are safeguarding adults, a shared approach to recognising and responding to allegations of abuse, training of staff who are involved with safeguarding or supporting vulnerable adults, focusing safeguarding activity on those who need it, ensuring that safeguarding is supported by “robust quality assurance arrangements”, improved scrutiny of provider activity and risks, focusing on people with limited opportunities to engage in and contribute to their local communities, wider representation and involvement and support for people using services and their carers in planning and managing change, ensuring that people with learning disabilities and their carers have access to advice, information and support, ensuring people’s needs are “holistically assessed” and supported by partners, the transformation of support planning to promote independence, to address gaps in the awareness of the needs of and support to carers, ensuring that reviews are appropriately times and focused, strengthened arrangements for management and learning from complaints and compliments, ensuring the Safeguarding Adult Board and Learning Disability Partnership Board drive improved outcomes for local people, promoting stronger communication with and involvement of local people and service providers in shaping the vision and development of local services, to develop “robust joint planning to address local needs secured by effective deployment of resources and management of risk”, to “expand its approach to prevention to deliver improved outcomes for people with learning disabilities and their carers”, to “ensure the workforce across the sector has the relevant knowledge, skills and experience to do their job well”, to “robustly challenge and enable the local market to address gaps, raise standards and meet new personalisation requirements” and finally to “ensure joined-up and efficient use of resources across the council, health and housing services”.

The first Improvement Plan with the detail of how they hope to achieve these aims can be read by following the link.

Appendix D to the Anna Klonowski Associates report was the Care Quality Commission Inspection report which is also available in an easy read version.

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Council (Extraordinary) (Wirral Council) 30th April 2013 | Revisions to the Constitution | Cllr Foulkes “it was the committee system that actually put in the policies that led to the overcharging within the Klonowski report”

Council (Extraordinary) (Wirral Council) 30th April 2013 | Revisions to the Constitution | Cllr Foulkes ” it was the committee system that actually put in the policies that led to the overcharging within the Klonowski report”

Continued from Council (Extraordinary) (Wirral Council) 30th April 2013 | Revisions to the Constitution | Cllr Blakeley “Where will it end, what next? Will Wirral be twinned with Pyongyang?”

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Council (Extraordinary) (Wirral Council) 30th April 2013 | Revisions to the Constitution | Cllr Foulkes “it was the committee system that actually put in the policies that led to the overcharging within the Klonowski report”

Cllr Foulkes thanked the Mayor for his introduction. He said “This is actually one of the times we’ll have a proper debate”. He said that the other two parties (Conservative and the Lib Dems) wanted effectively no change to the constitution. Cllr Foulkes said if they’d genuinely wanted to change the constitution they could’ve sat down with their mentors and brought forward proposals. He said the only person who’d done any work on it was the Council Leader [Cllr Phil Davies].

He said that Cllr Green had the audacity to talk about the brown bin tax, he [Cllr Green] had had the opportunity to move an objection at Budget Council but hadn’t do so. Cllr Foulkes said that Cllr Green had been in power along with Cllr Harney and he asked did they take the Council to Shrangri-La? He answered, “No they didn’t. They had their chance at the time, they had the opportunity, but did not do so.”

Cllr Foulkes said, “I’m going to get lectures tonight about getting rid of two committees, one of them is around Adult Social Services and adult safeguarding. We had a training session on Monday night on adult safeguarding, a very informative one, all about how the restructures, how the Council’s delivering it, the staff, the people, one event. Who turned up? How many Conservative Members [councillors] turned up to that training session? How many? Not one, not one, sadly I don’t know what’s going on within the Liberal Democrat Group, we’ve read the headlines about it, I don’t know what was going on there, but none of those turned up and sadly I have to say only five Members [councillors] turned up and well, gladly they were all Labour Members [councillors] who bothered to turn up. If that’s the measure of the all party contribution to learning about safeguarding then we still have some way to go.”

He continued, “It can be enshrined in the year’s work or the work program of the new committee that will take over that and there are lessons to be learnt for combining looking at children’s safeguarding and adult safeguarding. That is a lesson that was learnt from the past.”

Cllr Foulkes also said, “I will remind this Council though, it was the committee system that actually put in the policies that led to the overcharging within the Klonowski report. It was the committee system that made that decision. If you think the committee system is foolproof it ain’t. If you think the Cabinet system is foolproof it isn’t.”

He said, “What I am shocked at is the lack of engagement by certain senior Members [councillors] in the process we have gone through. We’ve been to the Floral Pavillion and the atmosphere is better than in this Chamber.” … “We have a training mafia who are apparently monitoring us and making criticisms of us going to training sessions.” … “It maybe that we can have localised planning decisions, it maybe that we can have localised licensing decisions…”.

Continues at Council (Extraordinary) (Wirral Council) 30th April 2013 | Revisions to the Constitution | Cllr John Hale “these proposals should be consigned to the dustbin where they belong”.

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