As Sandwell council becomes the latest local authority to receive an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating for its ability to protect children, BASW has said that the local authority is not an isolated case and the root of this national problem lies in known workplace issues being ignored.
Following an unannounced inspection in February, Ofsted found failings in overall effectiveness, help and protection for young people, quality of practice, and leadership and governance.
The council has said that it was itself already aware of serious problems and had reported to the Department for Education its view of its child protection service as inadequate.
BASW has previously criticised the council’s decision to award a £1.5m contract to a private company, iMPOWER, to provide an Interim Director of Children’s Services in November 2012.
Commenting on today’s ‘inadequate’ rating for Sandwell children’s services, Nushra Mansuri, Professional Officer at the British Association of Social Workers said:
“If local councils want to support children, they firstly need to support social workers.
“We are going backwards not forwards in child protection. Sandwell is not an isolated case; a third of all local authorities are now deemed inadequate by Ofsted.
“We have all the evidence about what works - reduced caseloads, less paperwork, supportive supervision of social workers to name a few - but these known workplace issues are being ignored in favour of a target obsessed culture, good on rhetorical pledges to protect children but lacking practical action.
“This trend of interim appointments, effectively parachuting people in to rescue services does not create stability for the future, and just wastes local people’s money.
“Councils need to work with professionals who have social work expertise to usher in the necessary improvements so that they can properly support staff because they understand the extremely challenging nature of the work.
“The £1.5m that Sandwell is giving to iMPOWER is not an investment in a local service, it is a payment to a private management company that risks being a cosmetic solution to deeply ingrained problems which is representative of short term thinking and a culture of ‘quick fixes’. Sadly, the only people who are likely to profit from this are iMPOWER’s shareholders, as opposed to local children and families.”