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Government take-over of failing Birmingham children’s services ‘not inevitable’, insists council leader

Government take-over of failing Birmingham children’s services ‘not inevitable’, insists council leader

🕔14.Nov 2013

Reports that the Department for Education is planning to transfer the running of Birmingham’s troubled children’s social services department to an independent trust are wide of the mark, according to city council leader Sir Albert Bore.

Sir Albert said discussions with watchdog Ofsted were proceeding positively and he expected an agreement about “taking the service forward” to be in place imminently.

The BBC has reported that the DfE is preparing to step in before Christmas and remove day to day control of children’s social care from the council if standards do not improve.

Ofsted is expected to make a further inspection of children’s social services this month and the report into progress made recently will be a critical factor in deciding what action to take.

Previous inspections since 2009 have resulted in an “inadequate” classifications and the council is about to enter its fifth year of special measures and improvement plans.

Peter Duxbury, the latest in a line of social services directors, left the council by mutual agreement in the summer. One of his predecessors, Colin Tucker, lasted less than two years in the hot seat.

The council has been rocked by a number of highly critical reports into child deaths, the latest involving toddler Keanu Williams, who died after receiving 37 separate injuries at his home. A Serious Case Review found there were a number of significant opportunities to save the two-year-old, but social workers and other health professionals failed to act.

Sir Albert told a media briefing there was “no inevitability at all” about social services being run directly by the Government.

He accepted the council “have to put right deficiencies in the service” but remained confident of succeeding.

He said: “We are in discussions with Ofsted and the DfE about the way in which we take these services forward. These are regular discussions.

“We are expecting to reach some conclusions about this, possibly as early as next month.

“We hope to take this forward in agreement with the DfE rather than having the Secretary of State stepping in and imposing a solution on the way forward.

“I have to say that discussions with the DfE are positive in that respect.”

Cllr Bridget Jones, the cabinet member for children and family services, said the DfE had earmarked several areas for improvement. These were stability of leadership in children’s services, stabilising the workforce, improving the quantity and quality of social workers and improving the quality of front line social work practice.”

Pressure on Birmingham appears to have been increased by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who recently suggested in a speech that more failing children’s departments could be taken over and managed by independent trusts.

The debate intensified last month when Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw described Birmingham’s failure to protect vulnerable children as a “national disgrace”.

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