Councillor defies calls to stand down after damning report on children’s services failures

Councillor Pat Smith.
Councillor Pat Smith.
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The politician charged with overseeing the services which look after Wearside’s most vulnerable children has said she will continue in her role.

Councillor Pat Smith has faced calls to step down in the aftermath of a shocking report which uncovered a catalogue of failings by the departments.

“The clear message from the Ofsted report is that elected members, a councillor in a senior position, must accept responsibility for the terrible situation in children’s services.”

Councillor Peter Wood

Ofsted found the services, which look after children in need of help and protection, those in care or have left care, as well as the safeguarding children board, were inadequate.

As part of the checks, it looked into adoption services and experiences of those previously in care.

Three years ago, inspectors said they were good, with Sunderland City Council stating the downturn in standards had been down to budget cuts, increased caseloads and recruitment difficulties.

It says it has since carried out an overhaul, launched a backlog team and is considering reviewing the portfolio to include adults.

Councillor Peter Wood, who leads the Conservative group on the authority has said Coun Smith should stand down.

She has not responded to requests from the Echo asking her to clarify whether she will, but has issued a statement which says: “I think it is an indictment of Councillor Wood’s position that at a time like this the best he can do is try to score political points.

“I was portfolio lead for Children’s Services when we received the good Ofsted and I will ensure we do all we can to return to that situation.”

Coun Wood said today: “The Ofsted report makes references to elected councillors at the most senior level.

“It seems to me that’s a direct reference to Councillor Smith herself.

“The clear message from the Ofsted report is that elected members, a councillor in a senior position, must accept responsibility for the terrible situation in children’s services.”

The report states those responsible have not put the right improvements in place or understand the work of the departments well enough, leading to “deep inadequacies”.