How social workers in Sunderland are pledging to fight domestic abuse in the city

Sunderland Civic Centre.
Sunderland Civic Centre.

Children’s services bosses in Sunderland have made tackling the effects of domestic abuse one of their priorities in overhauling the struggling department.

Social workers have set out a 15-point plan to improve the offering on Wearside, which was judged ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors in 2015.

Another inspection earlier this year noted some improvements, especially adoption services which were found to be ‘Good’.

But children’s services in the city overall however were still considered ‘Inadequate’.

Taking questions from city councillors at last night’s Children, Education and Skills Scrutiny Committee, children’s services director Jill Colbert set out her plans.

“If I had one pitch to make for the significant area we have to address,” she said, “it’s the prevalence of domestic abuse.

“I don’t say that lightly because I don’t want Sunderland to be known as somewhere where domestic abuse is more prevalent than other areas.

“But we do have a higher prevalence of domestic abuse than our statistical neighbours.”

Colbert was made Sunderland City Council’s director of children’s services in April, moving from Trafford Council, in Greater Manchester.

At the same time, she also became chief executive of Together for Children, the organisation set up to run children’s services in Sunderland following 2015’s Ofsted inspection.

The 15-point Learning and Improvement Plan was devised in response to the most recent Ofsted report, which was published in July.

As well as quicker help and support for ‘victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse’, other measures include better training for staff, improved assessments for the most at-risk children and more access to training and jobs to those leaving the care system.

Colbert added: “We want happier children, fewer children witnessing abuse.

“We know we can’t just do that, we’ve got to do it together.

“I think partners really want to see us get better, but didn’t know how to do that.

“What we’ve been able to do is say this is what good looks like and they know now what we need to do differently.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service