Birmingham ordered to improve retention of children’s social workers

Recruitment and retention remains key focus in Birmingham as DfE appoints new independent commissioner to oversee children’s social care improvements

Birmingham town hall Photo: Ethel Davis/Robert Harding/Rex

Birmingham must implement a ‘credible’ strategy for recruiting and retaining children’s social workers by April 2016, the Department for Education has said.

The instruction was included in the latest improvement notice issued to the council, which also confirmed the appointment of Andrew Christie, currently children’s services director in Hammersmith and Fulham, as the new independent commissioner for Birmingham.

Christie will oversee continuing improvements to the struggling children’s services department and replaces Lord Warner, who stepped down in May this year.

This includes ensuring the adequate implementation of Birmingham’s 2015-17 improvement plan for early help and children’s social care, which was published in April.

The plan promised a ‘relentless focus’ on improving recruitment and retention.

A progress report submitted to the council’s cabinet at the beginning of this month said that some improvements had already been made, but this remained a challenging area. Twenty-nine per cent of frontline social workers and 25% of team managers are still agency staff.

The DfE direction notice said the council, which is the largest in Europe, must secure a high-quality and stable workforce.

‘Moving forward’

Birmingham’s children’s services were placed in special measures in March 2013.  Lord Warner was appointed as commissioner the following April, after Birmingham was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted for the second time in two years.

John Clancy, leader of the council, said: “I welcome Andrew Christie to Birmingham and I am confident that he will offer valuable input and experience as we continue to improve our children’s services. We have already made considerable progress, moving from a place of real concern to a place where we are stable, on the right track and moving forward.”

Christie, who also oversaw the merger of children’s services in Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea in 2011, is due to retire as a director next year.

Notice lifted in Cheshire East

The DfE also announced today that the improvement notice on Cheshire East’s children’s services has been lifted. The notice had been issued following an inadequate rating of the council’s child protection services in March 2013. In the latest Ofsted report, published September 2015, child protection services were judged as requiring improvement.

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