by Mark Ivory
One simple phrase springs to mind in response to the sudden departure of high-flying family services director Andrew Webster from Surrey council – how are the mighty fallen! Webster resigned more than two months ago, shortly before publication of an Ofsted joint area review which raised serious concerns about some services to vulnerable children. Although there has been no confirmation that the two events were linked, the coincidence is too thunderous to ignore.
So the question surely is, is Webster the victim of Surrey’s hubris? It is impossible to forget, in pre-Webster days, the stockbrokers belt hauteur with which the county re-merged children’s and adults’ services two years ago just as everyone else was doing the exact opposite. It seemed like a somewhat hasty return to Seebohm-style social services, albeit with education bolted on, and arguably against the spirit of Every Child Matters which insisted that the corporate eye should be firmly and undistractedly focused on safeguarding children.
Has nemesis arrived in a JAR? The report is critical of services provided to some 3,000 children in need, finds inconsistency in the standards of social care practice, and claims that partnership working for children and young people across the county is under-developed, to take a few examples from the list. Of course, other councils followed Surrey’s example in the hope of finally achieving the family-centred services that Seebohm envisaged 40 years ago. We can only hope that they don’t live to regret it.