Welsh government hands ultimatum to Swansea children’s services

The Welsh assembly government has threatened to intervene at Swansea Council’s children’s services after it failed to improve performance following a damning report in 2007.

Deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas has given the council two weeks to respond to her concerns, but warned that an external intervention board may be established to oversee improvement in several areas.

The intervention would be made under section 84 of the Children Act 1989 – the first time a Welsh council would be subject to such powers.

Safeguarding judged ‘poor’

The report by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, published in November 2007, rated safeguarding, assessments and care management at Swansea Council’s children’s services as poor.

Inspectors found that a backlog of unallocated cases had resulted in significant delays in assessments. They were caused “great concern” by the number of cases marked as assessed without the child being seen or spoken to.

An interim inspection by the CSSIW found that, despite the inspectorate’s assistance, the authority had made only “limited” progress on a number of improvement targets since.

Minister criticises leadership

Although Wendy Fitzgerald, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for social services, insisted in January that improvements were being made, Thomas said the authority had suffered from inadequate leadership, commissioning and scrutiny over the previous 18 months.

She added that she was disappointed at the failure to meet targets, despite the assistance of the CSSIW.

The minister warned: “That level of intervention cannot be sustained indefinitely. Take that help away, and the risk is too great that the current position – highly unsatisfactory as it still is – will deteriorate further.”

Morale low

The news comes five weeks after a Swansea Council social worker was struck off by a Care Council for Wales conduct committee for “extremely poor judgement” in her handling of a case in which a child was subsequently murdered.

A local representative of the British Association of Social Workers said the morale of social workers at the council had been severely damaged by the case and they felt under “terrible scrutiny”.

Threat follows interventions in England

The threat to intervene at Swansea follows the Department for Children, Schools and Families’s decision to intervene in nine English councils judged inadequate by Ofsted in either safeguarding or children’s services overall.

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