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New Government commissioner to run Birmingham children’s social services

New Government commissioner to run Birmingham children’s social services

🕔17.Dec 2015

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has appointed a new commissioner to oversee Birmingham city council’s troubled children’s social services department.

Andrew Christie will take over from Lord Warner whose term of office ended earlier in the year.

Mrs Morgan has also issued a new legal direction, effectively putting the council on notice that children’s social care is not yet at an adequate standard and the service must improve.

The notice follows a declaration by the Prime Minister this week warning that failing social services departments will be taken over by the Government if they fail to come up to standard after a six-month warning. Birmingham’s social care department has been classified as failing to protect vulnerable children and placed in special measures for seven years.

The council is in the first year of a three-year improvement plan approved by the Government.

A formal notice under the 1996 Education Act describes Birmingham’s performance as “inadequate”.

The notice compels the council to follow any instructions given by Mr Christie and allow him reasonable access to any building, report, or local authority employee.

The leader of the council, John Clancy, cabinet member Brigid jones, strategic director for people, Peter Hay, and chief executive Mark Rogers, described as the Quartet, must meet Mr Christie at least once every two months.

The Government has also appointed Essex county council as Birmingham’s improvement partner, working to help improve children’s social care.

Under the terms of the notice, the council has to:

  • Ensure high-quality performance management in all areas of children’s social care activity.
  • Bring about robust and timely resolution to issues of poor performance, particularly at management level.
  • Put in place a credible recruitment and retention strategy by April 2016 which seeks to secure a high-quality, stable social care workforce.

Recently, Birmingham city council has claimed it is turning the corner and slowly making the improvements required by the Department for Education. However, the council leader admits there is a long way to go.

Cllr Clancy said:

I welcome Andrew Christie to Birmingham and I am confident that he will offer valuable input and experience as we continue to improve our children’s services. We have already made considerable progress, moving from a place of real concern to a place where we are stable, on the right track and moving forward.

We know we are not there yet but we know what we need to do. We are working hard to improve our systems and processes and the quality of social work practice. We are committed to maintain adequate funding for children’s services and we are working more strategically with our partners to meet children’s needs consistently across the city.

Cllr Jones, the cabinet member for children’s services, said:

I look forward to working with Andrew Christie; as someone with a long and distinguished background in children’s services he will be able to provide us with strategic advice and guidance as well as assurance. We are well into the second year of our three-year improvement plan and we have achieved, or have in progress, all aspects of the plan.

Children’s services staff are working incredibly hard and I am really proud of what they have achieved. However I recognise that we still have a long way to go before we are a ‘good’ service.

It is now vital that we keep the service stable and achieve sustainable improvement and I am keen to work with Andrew to achieve this goal.”

Mr Christie made his mark by becoming the first tri-borough children’s services director, for Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington.

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