| Birmingham children’s services takeover warning!

Birmingham Children’s services takeover warning ~ BBC.

Children’s services at Birmingham Council could be taken over by the Department for Education before Christmas if standards do not improve.


Keanu Williams
Keanu Williams died in January 2011 after being found with 37 injuries

Children’s services at Birmingham Council could be taken over by the Department for Education before Christmas if standards do not improve.

The takeover will happen if Ofsted inspectors do not see improvements when they return later this month.

The department is the biggest of its kind in England and has been rated as “inadequate” for four years.

Department head Peter Hay said the city council had to be involved in its running but there were no easy answers.

“I think there’s got to be a role for the city council – because it can bring the relationships and the money and the investment,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But it can’t do what it’s always done and I absolutely respect that the secretary of state has a very difficult decision because there are no easy answers here.”

There have been a number of high-profile child deaths in Birmingham in recent years, including those of Khyra Ishaq in 2008 and Keanu Williams in 2011.

Khyra Ishaq
Khyra Ishaq weighed just 2st 9lb (16.5kg) when she was discovered at her home in 2008

Keanu was found with 37 injuries at his home in Ward End, Birmingham, and a serious case review concluded last month there were “a number of significant missed opportunities” to save the two-year-old.

Khyra died aged seven after being starved at her home in the Handsworth area of the city.

‘National disgrace’The department has been rated as inadequate by Ofsted since 2009.

Key dates in ‘failing’ social services

  • May 2008: Khyra Ishaq, seven, dies after months of abuse by her mother and her mother’s ex-partner
  • Feb 2009: City council served with improvement notice by the government for its services to safeguard children
  • Feb 2010: High Court judge rules Khyra “might still be alive if she had not been failed by social services”
  • July 2010: Serious case review says Birmingham social services is still failing to protect vulnerable children
  • Oct 2012: Surprise Ofsted inspection shows council’s child protection services are “inadequate”
  • Feb 2013: Report reveals 431 children’s services staff at the council were on long-term sick leave in 2012
  • Oct 2013: Serious case review finds opportunities were missed to save two-year-old Keanu Williams, who was beaten to death by his mother
  • Oct 2013: Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw singles out city for criticism for 23 serious case reviews over the past seven years
  • Nov 2013: Council says children’s services budget to be protected despite having to make cuts of £600m from its budget over six years
  • Nov 2013: BBC learns council could be taken over this month if standards do not improve

Mr Hay, who took over as head of the department in July, said shortly afterwards that improvements had not been made and he could not guarantee the safety of children in the city.

Last month Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the city’s failure to protect vulnerable children was a “national disgrace”.

A spokesman for the DfE said it had warned the council that unless Ofsted identified signs of improvement in its next inspection in the coming weeks it would have to take further action.

Mr Hay said: “We’re very clear that performance is inadequate and we’ve been trying to establish a greater transparency to that so that we can get governance right of how we improve services.

“Part of improvement is not just knowing your story… but actually knowing what you need to do to put it right.”

He said the key was having “enough social workers to do great social work” but his department currently had vacancy rates for qualified staff of more than a quarter and experienced supervisors of more than a third.

“I’ve heard people thinking about jobs say that they’ve been told not to come to Birmingham because it’s a blot on their CV,” Mr Hay said.

“I think that’s unacceptable – I think coming to Birmingham should be a part of everybody’s CV because of the professional challenges you get.”

Mr Hay said social care involved many “risky decisions” and “fine calls”.

“We sometimes expect people to have had a crystal ball. All I’m expecting them to have done is to have made a judgement – an analysis of the information – and to live with that risk,” he added.

Computer-generated image showing four injuries to Keanu's headA computer-generated image shows some of the injuries inflicted to Keanu’s head

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham’s Perry Barr constituency, said the takeover warning was a “complete and utter political move” by the government.

“If they are going to do it they should just do it instead of making leaks and threats,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

‘Deprived’ areasHe said the government could instead look at devolving the department to constituency level, as there were some constituencies with more than 100,000 people.

Earlier this year, government officials forced Doncaster Council to cede control of its children’s services after years of failure. The department is now managed by a private firm until an independent trust is set up.

In a speech on Tuesday, Education Secretary Michael Gove said more struggling children’s services departments in England could be taken over by independent providers.

“I confidently expect that the improvements we will see in Doncaster mean this model will grow,” he said.

With a population of 1.1 million, Birmingham is the most populated British city outside London.

In 2010, Birmingham was ranked 13th in a government list of deprived areas, behind authorities such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets in London.

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