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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Children's Services Improvement Journey

Friday, 23 July 2021

As many of you are aware, back in May Ofsted carried out a focused visit to Tameside’s children services. This was part of a wider investigation into how England’s social care system has delivered child-centred practice and care within the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown restrictions placed on our society. Ofsted’s final report was published on 25 June 2021, and I want to take the opportunity now to go into detail about what it means for children and families in Tameside.

The Ofsted report did find many examples of good practice within our children’s services, as well as evidence of clear and responsive decision making as part of our ongoing improvement plan. Particular praise was given to our support for foster carers, our creative arrangements to enable families to meet in appropriate community-based settings, and the strong communication between the local authority and school leaders during the coronavirus pandemic. However some of Ofsted’s conclusions, when combined with our own self-assessment, have made it clear that further improvements are required. An area of particular concern was ensuring that enough social workers are recruited and retained so they have the time and space to do the work they need to at the quality that we would wish. Other areas highlighted were access to enough placements to ensure children are able to live in places that best meet their needs, making sure that we have a better idea of what children themselves are experiencing, and improving management oversight to the work taking place on the frontlines.

The priority now is to build on the good work that already exists to make the changes needed to support children and families across Tameside. We have already committed to seven Sustainability Projects, much of which has been completely or at least partially delivered. This will now be complemented with a 16 point rapid improvement plan including, but not limited to, recruiting more social workers and advisors, establishing new monitoring and commissioning functions, and enhancing quality and performance. These efforts will be supported by the investment of an additional £461,000 in the service this year, and a further £504,000 in 2022.

This then, is the local context. But we know as well that none of the work of councils like ours takes place in a vacuum. There are a number of clear and concerning national trends that must be taken into consideration. The erosion of our social safety net due to a decade of austerity has put significant pressure on children and families, many of whom end up coming to us for support. This is likely to be exacerbated by the proposed removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments that was put in place during the pandemic. Local authorities have also not been given the funding they require to deal with this demand. Research from the Local Government Association last month shows that the number of Section 47 enquiries, the official name for investigations carried out when a child is believed to be at risk of harm, increased from 89,300 in 2010 to 201,000 in 2020 – a rise of 125%. This means that despite councils increasing their budgets for children’s services by £1.1 billion in the past two years, more than 8 in 10 recorded overspends in this area in 2019/20. There exists also a number of concerns about the quality of placements, use of unregulated accommodation and excessive profit-making of private providers, particular those backed by private equity.

There is much work ahead of us, but I believe that by committing to doing what we can locally and lobbying for change where we think it is required nationally, a better future for Tameside’s children and families is within our reach. This is the highest priority that we face as a Council, and we now have the resources and personnel in place to leave no stone unturned in our efforts.

Posted by: Executive Leader

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