Birmingham reforms children’s services after damning reports
Council damned over Keanu Williams case will invest extra £9m as part of ‘radical’ strategy, but admits service for vulnerable children still not consistent.
The largest local authority in the UK has announced “radical” reforms to the way it keeps children safe following severe criticism in a string of reviews into tragedies involving vulnerable youngsters.
Birmingham city council has vowed to introduce new systems to make sure all of those involved in the care of children – from health visitors and nursery workers to teachers, social workers and police – co-operate effectively.
It has also announced that it is ploughing extra money into children’s care. The city council will invest an extra £9m into children’s services in the next financial year and another £6m annually after that.
The council is still reeling from the damning serious case review into the murder of two-year-old Keanu Williams, which concluded that a range of professionals missed chances to intervene, and from an extraordinary and wide-ranging attack by the chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who branded Birmingham a “national disgrace”. Government inspectors will visit England’s second city in January to assess the situation.
Two months on from the Keanu review, the council published its proposed reforms for children’s care in the city on Thursday. It admitted in its strategy document it was still not providing a “consistently safe service for vulnerable children”. The council, which has long struggled to attract good social workers to the city because of its poor reputation, also said it still had 80 vacancies for social workers who work with children.
It has looked at five options for the way forward, including breaking up Birmingham into smaller, more manageable chunks. The Labour-led council has also considered outsourcing children’s services or setting up a trust accountable to the Department for Education.
But its favoured option is what it calls “integrated transformation”. This involves finding mechanisms in which all agencies and organisations involved in any way in childcare will operate together.
Exactly how they will do this is still up for discussion, but “design options” include creating more effective local “hubs” in each of the city’s 10 districts where all professionals involved in the care of children work side by side. Another idea is to create a commissioning board involving all the agencies to order services together to cut out overlap and waste.
Councillor Brigid Jones, the cabinet member for children and family services, said: “It is clear we cannot go on with years of initiatives and restructures resulting in little or no change.”
She continued: “This strategy acknowledges but draws a line under what has gone before and sets out clearly and unambiguously that the future lies in an integrated system for joint commissioning and delivery of children’s services.
“We have the capacity and ability to succeed, but we do need to have the right support in place and that will come from a network of partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors.”
Earlier this week, Birmingham city council announced another 1,000 job cuts on top of 7,000 that have already been made over the past three years and said it believed it needed to find savings totalling just under £840m between 2010 and 2018.