‘Cuts and caseloads led to difficulties’ – Sunderland City Council after damning children’s services report

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
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Urgent changes have been put in place at children’s services after widespread and serious failures were uncovered by inspectors.

Three years ago Ofsted judged the services as good.

Now, those who look after children in need of protection, in care and those leaving care, as well as the effectiveness of its safeguarding children board, have been judged as inadequate.

Read more: Call for children’s services boss to quit over ‘widespread and serious failures’ in child protection
The council has said budget cuts, a rise in workload following cases such as Baby P and a move to a family rather than children’s services approach have put it under pressure.

The Echo requested details of budget reductions and staffing numbers, but the council is yet to respond.

Council leader Paul Watson has said the last inspection had given it a “false sense of security” of how well the departments were performing.

He added: “We absolutely accept the findings of the report and its findings.

“We want to get this back to where it needs to be as fast as we possibly can.”

Ofsted has said Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has written to Secretary of State Nicky Morgan to raise issues.

He will also write to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to express his concerns over Northumbria Police’s child protection and safeguarding after finding information sharing between it and the council was poor and police did not consistently attend meetings.

Assistant Chief Constable Debbie Ford said: “Moving forward we will seek to improve our working relationship with Sunderland City Council and together ensure we deliver the best possible service to the public and protect young people.”

‘Many staff are inexperienced’

Echo readers have given their views on the report’s findings via our Facebook page.

Lindsey Bestford said: “Absolute disgrace.”

Jo Lawrence said: “What can be expected when the government has cut funding by £5million last year? “This is not just Sunderland, it’s nationwide.

“The condemnation from Ofsted is yet more propaganda to lead the public accepting the privatisation of children’s services by G4S, who already have contracts for many.

“Many experienced social workers are leaving the profession due to impossible case loads, leaving newly qualified and inexperienced staff to take their place

“Something desperately needs to be done, but point the finger of blame where it belongs– austerity and Tory values.”

Joanne Dobinson said: “Same as usual then, turnover of social workers are so high, there is no consistency of continuity of care.

“Most are agency workers who only stay for a few months, and safe guarding procedures are not followed, nothing has changed in the last five years, just more ‘lessons will be learned’”

Damien Taylor said: “They were poor before the cuts, the cuts just made the problem worse. “And that’s the things you know about.”

Alison Burnell said: “And as usual after any child is hurt they gave an inquiry instead of sorting it in the beginning. Shocking.”

David Buwie said: “Substitute UK for Sunderland - this country is beyond help, sadly.”