BCC Press Statement

Better child protection pledge for city

Better protection for children from those who would hurt them, will be Khyra Ishaq’s legacy, Birmingham’s head of Children Services pledged today.

Cllr Les Lawrence was speaking as the Serious Case Review into Khyra Ishaq’s death was published by the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board.

He insisted the authority and its partners knew the issues that needed to be addressed to improve safeguarding of children and they were being tackled.

Cllr Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families for Birmingham City Council, said: “We realise that none of the improvements we and other agencies have put in place can bring Khyra back.

“For that we are profoundly sorry. Today’s publication of the Serious Case Review clearly highlights the opportunities missed by a number of agencies to intervene in the abuse being inflicted on Khyra by the people she trusted to look after her.

“The majority of the lessons from the review have already been acted upon. Today, as we remember Khyra Ishaq’s life, we re-affirm our commitment to create a children’s social care service that better protects our young people from those who would harm them.

“Let this be Khyra Ishaq’s legacy.”

The SCR makes 12 recommendations that directly relate to Birmingham’s children services, or are joint recommendations with other agencies. Ten of these have already been fully implemented and a further two, which emerged from the criminal trial into Khyra’s death, are in the process of being implemented.

In addition, the City Council itself identified a further 28 areas for improvement, all of which have also now been fully implemented.

Three members of staff who had significant involvement with Khyra were removed from frontline services directly after her death and have been put through the authority’s disciplinary process.

Tony Howell, Strategic Director for Children, Young People and Families, said: “I know that everyone involved with Khyra and her family within my department has been deeply affected by her death.

“As professionals, we need to make the changes necessary to prevent such tragedies in the future.

“For our part, we have undergone a major review of children’s social care, strengthened our management team, increased capacity on the front-line and are in the process of remodelling our workforce.

“We have tried our best to improve public awareness of social work and stress the need for everyone to play their part in safeguarding children by reporting signs of abuse.

“We will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure children in this city are safe from those who would do them harm.” Leadership within Children’s Social Care was strengthened last year with the recruitment of Colin Tucker as Director of Children’s Social Care and the creation of a further three assistant director posts.

More recently, Cllr Len Clark, who led a hard-hitting inquiry into Children’s Social Care, was appointed Executive Member of Children’s Social Care last month.

Cllr Clark and Mr Tucker are currently drawing up plans for a remodelling of the children’s social care workforce.

This includes a shift in focus towards early intervention and preventative work with families aimed at nipping problems in the bud before they escalate.

Improvements made in the last year include:

• Sickness rates within Children’s Social Care have dropped from an average of 25 days per full-time equivalent member of staff between July 2008 – July 2009 to 16.9 from July 2009 – April 2010 (lastest figures available).

• The vacancy rate within the Children’s Social Care workforce has dropped from 23 per cent in December 2009; 20 per cent in February 2010 to 15 per cent in
April 2010 (latest figures available). This is down from 180 vacancies out of 750 qualified full-time social workers to 100

• Managers at every level of social care have undergone or will be undergoing training to identify ways of addressing problems contributing to poor

• Social care staff have undergone training to create better practices and higher
standards of recording.

• The number of “inadequate” care homes has gone down from seven to none and provision for the city’s 2,000 children in care was praised by Ofsted which judged many areas “good”.

• The authority’s fostering service has been upgraded by Ofsted from “satisfactory” to “good” overall, with several areas described as “outstanding”.

• Social work front-line teams are being re-located into modern, high quality office accommodation. Seventeen social care teams in the south of the city have
already moved into a purpose-built centre, Lifford House. Teams in Aston will now move by the end of the year instead of next spring.

Notes to Editors

• Birmingham City Council’s children’s services was judged “adequate” overall in December 2008 in Ofsted’s Annual Performance Assessment, but downgraded to “inadequate” for safeguarding – one of six areas inspected.

• Following this, Birmingham City Council set up a top level Task Force chaired by Council Leader, Cllr Mike Whitby to improve the service.

• One of its first actions was to order an in-depth internal scrutiny inquiry into children’s social care chaired by Cllr Len Clark.

• The hard-hitting scrutiny report was made public in October 2009 and set out in detail shortfalls within the service.

• Birmingham City Council has ring-fenced the budget for children’s social care to ensure funding is available for the improvement drive.


Further information from Shahid Naqvi 0121 303 3635.