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BASW welcomes Birmingham report but warns against imposing another year of instability

Responding to Julian Le Grand’s report to the Secretary of State for Education on ways forward for children’s social care services in Birmingham, Bridget Robb, Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said:

“Birmingham City Council has taken large steps during the past six months to stabilise a deeply unstable situation and we hope the recommended appointment of a Commissioner will support its continued progress.

Provided the Commissioner acts as a critical friend and supports the Council’s attempts to make children and young people safer then it will be a welcome development, supported by social workers in the city.

A Commissioner must not become yet another vehicle for the same political and management instability that Julian Le Grand’s report rightly highlights has long since bedeviled Birmingham’s children’s services.

The report rightly points to under-funding of children’s services and the fact thresholds for receiving social work support have long been far too high. It also makes clear the unique challenges faced by Birmingham, a city with high levels of deprivation and a population of children and young people the size of Cardiff.

Social workers in the city will be concerned at the report’s recommendation to review commissioning arrangements for children’s services, potentially not concluding until March 2015, imposing yet another period of uncertainty likely not to conclude for another year.

The report highlights modest improvements in social worker retention, which must be sustained if the performance of the council is to improve long term. Our concern is that a further period of review could undermine efforts to keep and recruit the best social workers.

There are no quick fixes to such major challenges and given the progress made over the past six months it is to be hoped that sufficient time and support is given to accelerate the improvements, in the best interests of vulnerable children and young people in Birmingham.