Cuts not just to blame

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Blaming ‘the cuts’ will not do as an excuse by Councillor Pat Smith in response to a damning report on Children’s Services in Sunderland, which makes it clear that political leadership is lacking.

The report stated “political leaders have failed to ensure that children in Sunderland are supported, protected and cared for”: A clear indication that weak political leadership is putting children at the risk of harm.

In fact, there were problems in Councillor Smith’s department long before ‘the cuts’ with poor GCSE results for looked after children; a failure to retain social workers and delays in assessing children with mental health issues.

Instead of complaining about cuts and caseloads (which all councils suffer from) political leaders need to be more effective in ensuring improvements happen quickly.

The report specifically criticised political leaders saying “they do not ask the right questions or undertake the right activities” and that this had led to “broad and deep inadequacies in services for the most vulnerable children”.

Many of the shortcomings found by inspectors were the same as those identified in two independent reviews commissioned by the council last year and not acted on fast enough.

This inability to grasp challenges and deal with them was criticised in the report, which said that the council had “not shown sufficient leadership, management, impact or pace”.

These matters need to be tackled.

Robert Oliver