Midlothian Council’s social work director and the councillor with lead responsibility for the service have resigned following a s scathing report into its child protection services.
Social work director Malcolm McEwan and cabinet member for social work, health and housing Danny Molloy quit after significant flaws in systems, procedures and practice were identified in the report by Scotland’s education inspectorate, which followed an inspection last summer.
Of the 18 different service elements assessed, 12 were classed as weak and three as unsatisfactory, the two lowest scores on a six grade scale, and just three judged adequate.
Particular criticism was aimed at social workers for acting too slowly on child protection concerns.
Inspectors said staff tended to focus on the needs of parents with substance misuse problems without sufficient consideration being given to the impact on the child. There was also a lack of recognition of the impact of neglect.
When services did intervene, managers withdrew support too quickly, making multi-agency care planning difficult and resulting in vulnerable children’s needs not always being met and in some cases children being left at risk.
The process for sharing and recording information was weak: background reports were sometimes unavailable while social work attendance at children’s hearings was inconsistent. Several children on the child protection register did not have a named social worker while some who had been on the register for long periods were removed without any noticeable improvement.
Council leader Adrian Montgomery said the council had made “good and reassuring progress since the inspection to address the weaknesses recorded”.
But public services union Unison said underlying causes for the problems still remained, adding: “Despite attempts to increase recruitment recently, the service is still being run with many inexperienced social workers and agency staff, and experienced staff are leaving.”
The council has been given four months to come up with an action plan to address the report’s recommendations, while inspectors will revisit within a year to assess progress.
Councillor Molloy’s resignation statement
“I have political responsibility for the service and I accept this and have resigned my portfolio. I would wish to add that social workers do a very difficult job under exceptionally challenging circumstances and this report does not challenge the professionalism, ability or the commitment of social workers.”