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Half of improvement targets missed as council’s ‘direction of travel’ deteriorates

Half of improvement targets missed as council’s ‘direction of travel’ deteriorates

🕔29.Jun 2015

Birmingham city council failed to hit more than half of its improvement targets last year amid growing concern about the continuing poor performance of children’ social services.

Only 19 out of 50 improvement measures hit their year-end targets in 2014-15.

Performance against 25, half of the targets, actually deteriorated, the council cabinet has been told.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward claimed the authority’s performance would have been “a lot better” had the improvement figures not been dragged down by failing services for vulnerable children.

But he insisted it was not surprising given that the council is only one year into a three year social services improvement plan under the leadership of Government-appointed commissioner Lord Norman Warner.

A year ago Sir Norman warned Birmingham needed to spend at least £120 million to improve children’s services over three years. Council leader Sir Albert Bore identified a further £31 million for safeguarding this year, but requests to the Government for help have fallen on deaf ears.

Cllr Ward (Lab) said:

We are all aware that children’s safeguarding is the subject of an improvement plan. That improvement plan spreads over three years so it is perhaps not surprising that of the 21 measures we have against children’s services, only five of these have hit the target.

Opposition Conservative group leader Cllr Robert Alden welcomed Cllr Ward’s “honesty” but warned children’s services were in danger of “dragging the council backwards”. Cllr Alden added:

The reality is that performance against 50 per cent of the targets is deteriorating and this shows a direction of travel that is very concerning.

Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, said:

Some of our performance has gone backwards but this is a very narrow snapshot of what is happening.

She insisted children’s social care was making significant steps forward with a full complement of senior managers for the first time in years and sharply reduced turnover of social work staff.

The cabinet report noted that the focus in 2014-15 was “on the most problematic areas requiring significant improvement in very challenging areas”.

Improvement targets missed included:

  • Completed adult safeguarding cases audited that were judged good was down six per cent on the previous quarter, 14.4 per cent below target, and down by 7.2 per cent compared with last year.
  • The number of cases where homelessness is prevented or relieved totalled 9,102, missing the target by 1,898. There were 1,070 fewer preventions of homelessness than last year.
  • Moving younger adults form residential care into community settings at 34 was significantly behind the outturn target of 260.
  • Children in care cases reviewed on time, at 67 per cent, below target by 28 per cent, and 27 per cent worse than last year.
  • 69 per cent of child protection cases were reviewed within timescales, below target by 28.5 per cent and 26.4 per cent worse than last year.
  • Percentage of children in care, children in need, and child protection case files judged good or better stood at 48 per cent, which was 12 per cent below target
  • Percentage of initial child protection conferences held in timescale 43 per cent, the worst result to date, 47 per cent below target and 31 per cent worse than March 2014.

Other improvement targets missed:

  • Reducing levels of residual household waste, at 622kg, missed the year-end target by 22 kg.
  • 29 per cent of household waste reused, recycled and composted, missing target by six per cent and behind last year’s result by two per cent.

On the plus side:

  • 8,180 family common assessment frameworks were initiated across the city during the year, exceeding the outturn target by 5,760.
  • 50 young people in care were presented with awards at the first Golden Stars awards evening, for their personal and/or educational achievements.
  • Lakeside Children’s centre was a finalist for Partnership Working for the National Children & Young People ‘Now Awards’ 2014.
  • Other “significant successes” for Birmingham according to the cabinet report:
  • 1,050 affordable homes were built and ready for occupation during this year, exceeding the end-of-year target by 413
  • 6,058 jobs were created as a result of public sector interventions. Exceeding target by 2,258, and 731 more created than last year.
  • £22.1 million from the Department of Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Grant scheme, which will also be topped up by £7.9 million of locally-sourced funding. This will enable the Council to maintain funding at £10.00 per head of the population for cycling until 2018.

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