Child protection failures in Birmingham are a “national disgrace”, the Chief Inspector of Ofsted has claimed.
Social services in the West Midlands metropolis have failed inspections seven times over the last few years, said Sir Michael Wilshaw, the organisation’s Chief Inspector. There have also been 23 serious case reviews in the city in the last seven years, each held following the death of a child or serious harm. The most recent investigated circumstances surrounding the death of two year old Keanu Williams.
Speaking to the directors of children’s services departments in London earlier this week, Mr Wilshaw said:
“What is shocking is that this is the city council with responsibility for more children than any other [in Britain].”
He added: “Why is it that nearly a third of children in the city live in households on low incomes? Why is it that infant mortality is almost twice the national average, worse than in Cuba and on a par with Latvia and Chile? As somebody said about the banks not so long ago, if they are too big to fail, they are too big. The same could be said about this council. If better governance means breaking it up so that children are better protected, then that’s what needs to happen.”
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson is reported to have told Birmingham City Council that it has one last chance to rectify the situation or action will be taken.
Ofsted also published its first annual report into social care across the country. Only three per cent of the 152 local authorities in England were rated as ‘outstanding’ in the report. One in four were judged to be ‘good’ and one in seven were rated “inadequate” with “unacceptably poor” child protection standards.
The report identifies high staff turnover in children’s departments as a key problem – the directors of one third of all children’s departments changed in a single year.
Too many local authorities were “pussyfooting” around problems families, said the Chief Inspector, instead of taking decisive action. He also called for “tough love” towards parents prone to violence and drug addiction.
Ofsted must maintain a vigorous inspection regime, he insisted.
“To those who say we should ease up, my response is clear: ‘Whose side are you on?’ Because there is only one side that matters – that is the side of children who need protection and support.”