A second highly critical inspection report has sparked a major row
between Cardiff Council and the Welsh assembly.
Assembly minister for social services Jane Hutt has invoked a
protocol against the council for “dealing with matters of serious
concern”, following the inspection carried out by the Social
Services Inspectorate Wales (SSIW), which showed that children and
young people in the city were still not being served well.
And she warned Cardiff that it had narrowly escaped more punitive
action: “While I have concluded that invoking the protocol is the
most proportionate response at this stage, I have also seriously
considered using my powers under section 7A of the Local Authority
Social Services Act 1970 to impose directions upon the council, in
response to the outcome of this report.”
The report follows last year’s damning joint review which
highlighted several concerns about services for vulnerable
children, placing Cardiff social services among the three worst
departments in England and Wales.
The latest report said that some children on the child protection
register did not have an allocated social worker or a robust
protection plan, and inspectors found that there were 80 cases
waiting for initial assessment by social services. They were so
concerned about 16 of the cases that they were referred to the
interim chief social services officer for review.
Hutt said: “This report highlights, even more graphically than the
joint review, the gravity of the problems in children’s services in
Cardiff and how much remains to be done. I am concerned those who
depend upon these services – especially vulnerable children – are
not yet guaranteed a reliable and consistent response.”
But Cardiff’s deputy council leader (schools and children), Peter
Perkins, said that following the joint review, the council had
embarked on a wide-ranging and ambitious programme of reform. It
appointed former Somerset social services director Chris Davies as
its new director in July.
“It is incomprehensible that the minister has ignored the
constructive approach we have taken with the SSIW and in the
process unilaterally torn up the agreement between the Welsh Local
Government Association and the assembly.”
Under the protocol, Hutt and chief social services inspector,
Graham Williams, will write to Cardiff setting out what
improvements are needed and how this will be monitored.