BASW says leadership and resources are key to transforming Birmingham children's services
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) says sustained leadership improvements are crucial if Birmingham City Council is to successfully turn around its child protection services, following the latest critical Ofsted report, but that this must be supported by a central government acceptance that local authorities cannot cope with any more funding cuts.
Commenting on the Ofsted report, which describes arrangements to protect children in Birmingham as “inadequate”, BASW’s acting chief executive Bridget Robb said:
“Birmingham is blighted by the same issues that are affecting local authorities across England, and that BASW highlighted in May of this year in our State of Social Work survey – high caseloads, low morale and deep cuts to back office support are making the lives of social workers intolerable.
“However, as the largest council in the country, and with significant areas of deprivation, the city’s challenges are greater than most, which is why the current efforts of a new leadership to improve service provision must be given the time and space – as well as resources – needed to succeed.
“Social workers operating in extremely tough conditions need to see a sustained period of positive leadership, offering a more supportive environment in which to work. This must include a real commitment to training and an acceptance that to spend more time with vulnerable children social workers need proper administrative support – BASW’s survey found that many social workers are chained to their desks inputting data or answering the phone, when they should be out protecting young people.
“Such changes in culture are vital but so too is the need for the Westminster government to understand that local authorities will continue to struggle to properly safeguard children and adults without the proper funding that this work undoubtedly requires.”
The Ofsted report highlighted a range of serious concerns, including the quality of risk management in protecting children from harm. Inspectors who carried out an unannounced assessment of the council said this contributes to high rates of re-referrals, too many children being subject to repeat child protection plans and, in some cases, premature decisions to remove children from protection arrangements.
A series of action points include the need for a review of “the purpose, role and functioning of the integrated family support teams so that they are fit for purpose” within three months. Ofsted also requires the council to ensure it meets the proper statutory timescales in carrying out assessments of children in need and in visiting children subject to child protection plans.
It also demands “that the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) reviews all its work programmes to ensure that it is compliant with all of its statutory duties and in particular reviews the arrangements for safeguarding children and children at risk of sexual exploitation so that inter-agency work is effectively coordinated and better identified and responds to children’s needs”.
Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in England. It has a population of over 1,070,000, including an estimated 274,478 children and young people under the age of 18, representing 26% of the overall population.
View BASW’s State of Social Work report:
View Ofsted report into Birmingham City Council: