Children’s minister Dawn Primarolo has praised progress in tackling social care failings at Birmingham Council, but said more needs to be done to turn round the authority.
Following a meeting with council bosses last month, Primarolo said performance indicators in areas including the timeliness of assessments and participation of children and families in reviews were on the up, though there was “some way yet to go in certain performance areas”.
Birmingham Council was placed under an improvement notice by the government in February after receiving an inadequate rating for safeguarding in its 2008 annual performance assessment rating by Ofsted.
High thresholds and low spending on family support
Problems included high levels of referrals and re-referrals and high thresholds for children’s social care, very low spending on family support resulting in high numbers of children being on protection plans or in care, and inadequate serious case reviews.
The council was set targets to improve performance by February 2010, including by cutting social care vacancies from 24.7% in 2007-8 to 17.7%.
Consultants from PricewaterhouseCoopers were brought in to provide support, funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, while “peer-led support” has also been provided by directors of children’s services from Warwickshire and Coventry.
In a letter to council leader Mike Whitby, Primarolo said the “collaborative work between the council and PwC” was paying dividends and a “culture shift was evident in the directorate”.
Primarolo offers extra funding
However, she said the improvements had “not had sufficient time to embed” and said offered providing additional DCSF funding to part-finance further support from consultants over the rest of the improvement period.
Whitby welcomed Primarolo’s comments, adding: “The safety and well-being of our children is a top priority and we are determined to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. We know there is more to be done but I believe we are now well on the road to improvement.”
Primarolo will next meet council leaders in the autumn to take stock of progress.