Shocking details of children care reviews show size of task ahead says Sunderland councillor

Sunderland Civic Centre, where children's services are based.
Sunderland Civic Centre, where children's services are based.

The magnitude of the task to improve standards of children’s services in Wearside is laid out in the pages of the latest serious case reviews, says an opposition leader.

Sunderland’s Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) has just published three Serious Case Reviews concerning Wearside youngsters who had contact with care services.

Paul Ennals

Paul Ennals

One focused on ‘Mark’, who started taking drugs aged 11 and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act when authorities failed to intervene early on.

Another looked into the circumstances of ‘Rachel’ who was only taken into care when she was 15, despite long-held fears of sexual exploitation.

The third focused on ‘Family X’ who were known to the authorities for two decades and had a group of siblings taken into care in 2014, but whose background should have caused greater concern.

Each made recommendations for those involved, including social workers, police, GPs and health and youth workers.

Serious challenges remain around the recruitment of permanent social workers; the consistency of management and the provision of IT systems, which need to be progressed along with proper scrutiny of Together for Children by councillor

Councillor Robert Oliver

Sir Paul Ennals, independent chairman of the board, has said all those organisations have now “reviewed their own practice and are acting on lessons learnt,” adding his team will be monitoring progress.

Sunderland City Council launched Together for Children earlier this year as it took on the running and improvement of the services in the wake of Ofsted’s “inadequate” grading in 2015.

The SCRs looked at the time leading up to that report.

Councillor Robert Oliver, the council’s Conservative group leader, said: “These serious case reviews demonstrate how low standards had fallen in the Children’s Services department in Sunderland and that it will take time for the new company to get to the point where all children in the city are properly cared for.

“Serious challenges remain around the recruitment of permanent social workers; the consistency of management and the provision of IT systems, which need to be progressed along with proper scrutiny of Together for Children by councillors.”