Calls for city leaders to be involved in monitoring of children’s services on Wearside

City leaders have pushed for greater involvement in the monitoring of children’s services in Wearside.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 5:14 pm
Calls have been made for city leaders to be involved in monitoring of children’s services on Wearside

Councillors have been regularly invited to take part in inspections of children’s homes and foster care providers in Sunderland for several years.

And as the department gears up for a scheduled review of the way it is run, some elected officials have called for previous arrangements to be maintained.

“Councillors take on a corporate parenting role and we’ve always been keen to see things for ourselves, rather than just take on board what people tell us,” said Cllr Pat Smith.

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“I would expect that we do continue to have these visits.”

She added: “We don’t go into children’s homes every day of the week, we only do it occasionally, but seeing something, speaking to young people and speaking to staff is what we want to do.”

Cllr Smith was speaking at yesterday’s (Monday, April 19) meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Corporate Parenting Panel, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Regulation 44 visits carried out by an ‘independent person’ are described by Together for Children (TfC), the organisation which runs children’s services in Sunderland, as ‘essential’ to the safety of the city’s youngsters.

These assessments, which are often observed by councillors, interview staff, parents and children, with findings later passed to Ofsted, the government regulator.

Jill Colbert, TfC’s chief executive, told Cllr Smith current arrangements for Regulation 44 visits are set out in the service contract between TfC and the city council and any potential changes would need to go through a governance review planned for later this year (2021).

Colbert added: “The ultimate arbiter of quality is Ofsted and they go in independently.

“[Councillors] have been invited into different homes at different points, but that has very much been about being part of the community.”

Cllr Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children, learning and skills, said: “I think we need to have a wider grasp of what goes on as [councillors], but I think that needs to be part of the governance review.

“All of this has to be done with the leave either the foster carers or the children’s homes [because] it’s their home and we’ve got to remember that.”

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