Le Grand Review into Birmingham's children's services

By on 27/03/2014 in Cllr Jones, News

Children’s Minister Edward Timpson has today written to Professor Julian Le Grand and Sir Albert Bore about Professor Le Grand’s report on Birmingham children's social care services.

LINK TO LETTER TO SIR ALBERT BORE

LINK TO LETTER TO PROFESSOR LE GRAND AND FULL REPORT

The Recommendations

The le Grand review has recommended that a commissioner is appointed to oversee a package of measures to help the council continue to improve its children's services.

We welcome this proposal and are absolutely committed to working well together.

The review has ruled out a transfer of responsibility of children's services to another local authority and also ruled out a 'wait and see' option.

If the recommendations are agreed, the commissioner would be appointed by the secretary of state for education.

The commissioner would be supported by an expert panel with a particular focus on the quality of social work, overseeing and developing effective social work practice with children and families.

In turn, the city council will review its management capacity and resources to ensure that all the infrastructural support needed for improvement is in place, and report to the commissioner.

As the report highlights, we have been undertaking a recovery and immediate improvement, although this remains fragile. However, this recommendation builds on our work to try to stabilise our structure. We believe it is vital that the effectiveness of resources and our structures is actively reviewed, rather than revert to the previous narrow focus of creating different structures.

All-party response

In response to Professor Julian Le Grand’s 'Report to the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Children and Families on ways forward for children's social care services in Birmingham', the leaders of the three political groups on the City Council, Councillors Sir Albert Bore (Leader of the City Council and Labour Group), Paul Tilsley (Liberal Democrat Group Leader) and Lord Mike Whitby (Conservative Group Leader) are in cross-party agreement that vulnerable children and young people in Birmingham both deserve and should expect a united and consistent focus from politicians, officers and partners.

Improving outcomes and services for children and young people is the City Council's number one priority.

The report sets out a compelling account of the reasons for and the lengthy history of shortcomings. In doing so, it also highlights the significant challenges that come from the scale of deprivation facing communities in Birmingham and sets out a compelling case for addressing the exceptional levels of needs facing children.

The analysis of the council’s past failings completed by Professor Le Grand's review reflects on all of us. As a whole council we have not given the consistent focus that children’s services needed to see through improvements and make children safe. It is also evident, however, that inspection and intervention have not yet had the desired impact on improvement either and, looking ahead, it is clear that agreement to a unified, systematic and sustained approach across the City Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted is the only way forward in making sustainable improvements.

The City Council considers that this report represents the best analysis possible of the past and what it will take to move Birmingham’s services to children from where they are now to where they must to be in the future. The leadership of the City Council will now make sure that it plays its full part by doing three things:

1. We will all commit to maintaining strong cross-party political leadership.
2. In our executive, scrutiny and district roles we will deliver a sustained focus on the priority needed by children.
3. We will work with the recommendations set out in Professor Le Grand’s report and make sure these are implemented and held to.

It is time to move forward and make the difference demanded by children in this city.

We welcome the opportunity for the council to be part of that future and make the changes that our children deserve.

Sir Albert Bore

Lord Mike Whitby

Paul Tilsley MBE

27 March 2014

Response from Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services

I welcome this report which is comprehensive, accurate and honest. It ends a long period of uncertainty about the future of children's services in Birmingham. I know this has been a worrying and difficult time for our staff and partners, and I am glad that we can now move forward with some certainty and stability and start applying a planned approach to long-term improvement. I would like to thank Professor Le Grand and his expert team for the thoughtful approach they have brought to how to secure the improvement that our children deserve.

These proposals provide a clear direction that should provide long-term, sustained improvement. However, it is important that everyone understands that improvement is not linear; we still face plenty of challenges and we will have testing moments, but we must not allow these to blow us off course. What this report shows is that we must stick to our long-term improvement plan and not be dragged back into the short-term thinking that saw us making knee-jerk changes as a response to every poor Ofsted inspection.

The time for analysis is now over; we need to get on with making our children safe and secure. The recent LGA peer review made clear that there is no reason children's services cannot be delivered well in this city, and that is what we intend to do.

I have regularly visited social workers and other children's services staff since I took on this role, and I know first-hand how hard-working, professional and dedicated they are to the children of our city. I look forward to working now too with the commissioner as we move forward together.

This should give them all greater certainty about the council's position so Birmingham can become a great place to do great social work. I hope they all find strength in this report.

Cllr Brigid Jones

27 March 2014

Response from Director of People

I also welcome this report. What matters is making improvements so that we properly support children and I and the staff working in the directorate are absolutely committed to working together with the Commissioner and the Expert Panel.

We all understand that the severity of the issues and the lengthy period without improvement needs greater oversight.  The report has given us a much better understanding of what has stopped improvement happening and what needs to be in place in the future.

The report makes absolutely clear the importance of medium- and long-term planning rather than chasing performance targets, or the latest crisis.

We are currently in the middle of an Ofsted inspection, the results of which should be published in May. To say that we fully expect to remain inadequate is not being defeatist, but simply acknowledges where we are. This time, we face this inadequate judgement with the clarity given by this report about what is going to be different and how we make change and improvement stick.

We owe it to Professor Le Grand and the expertise of the team to apply to our work their excellent analysis.

It is particularly important that the report identifies measures which offer a low risk of outright failure, through the focus on improved management and continuous monitoring. Given the prolonged history of failure and the fact there are green shoots of a recovery, albeit a frail one, now is not the time for high-risk options.

Peter Hay

27 March 2014

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