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Children’s social services ‘in meltdown’, claims Labour city councillor

Children’s social services ‘in meltdown’, claims Labour city councillor

🕔22.Jul 2013

Birmingham children’s social services are in “meltdown and at crisis point” following the departure of strategic director Peter Duxbury, a senior city councillor has warned.

Scrutiny committee chairman Majid Mahmood took the unusual step of writing publicly to children’s cabinet member Brigid Jones warning her that vulnerable young people were being placed at risk by incompetent managers who he believed were incapable of delivering improvements to the service.

Mr Duxbury left the city council last Friday by mutual agreement after 15 months in charge of Birmingham’s children’s social care and schools. He had failed to move failing services for children at risk out of government special measures, where they have been for four years.

In his letter, Cllr Mahmood also claimed that the children’s services department is operating in a “culture of secrecy, suppression of information and defensiveness”.

Cllr Mahmood’s outspoken comments expose concerns among Labour councillors that Birmingham’s social services debacle will rebound politically at next year’s civic elections.

There is a possibility that the government may remove control of children’s social care from the council and hand responsibility for delivering improvements to an independent trust, an outcome that would be an embarrassing blow for the city council.

The tone of the letter with its fierce criticism of council officers is likely to alarm council leader Sir Albert Bore, and it is likely that Cllr Mahmood will find himself having to account for his actions in a sticky meeting with the chief whip.

The letter makes it clear that Cllr Mahmood fears Mr Duxbury may have been made a “scapegoat” for under-performance by social services managers.

The letter states: “The current assistant directors, who are currently showing no leadership, seem to come out of this relatively unscathed. There are no clear decisions being made they are unclear about roles and responsibilities.

“The public at large seem to have no confidence in the leadership team, and ultimately it will be us the political leadership who will have to take full responsibility.

“It would appear that given the sudden change of direction that many of the initiatives led by Peter Duxbury may go astray.”

Cllr Mahmood’s letter continues: “It would appear that the Birmingham children’s service is in meltdown as a consequence of senior managers being dysfunctional and in complete disarray and at crisis point.  The current senior managers and arrangements seem rather weak and dangerous.  This continues to place children and young people at serious risk.

“It is my view that the current cohort of senior managers is incapable of delivering any sustained change and as such continues to place children and young people at risk.  The senior managers are inexperienced and have proven themselves incapable of dealing with the complexities and pressures facing the directorate.

“They have shown they are resistant to change and improvements in safeguarding. Of even greater concern is the culture of secrecy, suppression of information and defensiveness being created by the management of social work services.”

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