Lord Warner’s second report will today be presented to the education and vulnerable children overview and scrutiny committee.
In reponse to the report Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said:
“We recognise all that Lord Warner has reported and welcome the acknowledgement he gives to the improvements we have made and our capacity to further improve. This recognition helps to build our confidence and bring stability – both essential ingredients in our efforts to make children safer.
“However, we also agree with Lord Warner that there is still a long way to go; overall, children in Birmingham are safer but they are not yet safe enough.
“We are six months into our three-year improvement plan and it is clear that there is still much more to achieve. We are making improvements at a time when our financial position is hugely challenging – but we know that we need to put additional resources into children’s service in order to achieve our goals.
“So, we have included in our budget White Paper an extra £19.9 million next year, plus £51.5m over the following two years, to invest in our improvement effort and meet the rising demand that we – like many other councils – are experiencing. The council has calculated, in consultation with Lord Warner, that as much as £123 million will be needed in total over the next three year period to ensure not only that we can make the progress that is required but that it is also long-term and sustainable. And, given this commitment, we are also looking to the government to show a similar commitment and meet us halfway.
“One of the key issues raised in the report is the recruitment and retention of social workers. We are, therefore, further developing our strategy to address this long-standing challenge, which includes offering a highly competitive package that incorporates a clear career pathway that provides qualified social workers with a highly attractive professional development package.
“In practice this will ensure progression from social worker role to senior social worker for those eligible when they have been at the council for two or more years. We will also replenish the talent pool at social worker level which will increase the workforce capacity where it is needed and enable manageable caseloads.
“We will have a more active strategy for agency use, recognising the need to cover staff shortfalls but reducing dependency; we are also seeking to recruit from a wider pool of agencies following approval by cabinet.
“We are also piloting a collaboration of the Independent Review Officer (IRO) with CAFCASS – the children and family court advisory and support service. Lord Warner has highlighted the current system as a problem and we need to address this.
“The pilot will see CAFCASS embedded in day-to-day operational management of the IRO service on behalf of the council, helping provide a robust and sustainable IRO service.
“We fully agree with Lord Warner when he says that we all need to remain focused on delivering change at pace. We know we are not there yet; we are six months into a three year journey but we have a strong leadership team to drive this through and proper scrutiny to ensure we stay on track.”