Ealing’s radical route to improved services revealed

A local authority whose children’s services were once branded
“the worst in the country” by government minister Paul Boateng was
transformed into a place where looked-after children could
negotiate their bedtimes with the council leader, the conference on
integrating services heard.

Norman Tutt, social services director with Ealing Council,
described how his new management team had turned the department
into the winner of a Community Care excellence award
within three years.

In 1998, the Social Services Inspectorate damned Ealing for
allocating social workers to only half of the children on its
at-risk register and to just 26 per cent of its looked-after

There was also a huge backlog of case reviews, as some reviewers
were barely managing one file per week. Tutt’s “brutal” remedy
began by replacing all senior managers, forcing team managers to
reapply for their jobs – 10 out of 17 survived – and asking poorly
performing staff to leave. Young people themselves were encouraged
to drive the changes, alongside councillors. “At the Corporate
Parents Panel, they spent 45 minutes discussing bedtime with the
leader of the council,” said Tutt. “He takes it very

Leisure centres and theatres were booked for “fun days”, talent
shows, or polling sessions via laptop computers on issues
concerning the children. Children leaving care who wish to go to
university are now given £5,000 a year to help them through,
said Tutt, adding that he was “stunned” by the authority that
refused to send a looked-after child to Gordonstoun.

Ten of the most “challenging” looked-after children were
selected to represent the council on a delegation to the Holocaust
Memorial at Auschwitz.

As the council had always relied on social workers from South
Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Ealing devised a special
induction course for them.

Meanwhile, the five case reviewers were all sacked, and their
replacements review an average of 10 files a week “or they don’t
get paid”, said Tutt.

The authority now has 98 per cent of its cases allocated and 90
per cent of reviews done on time.

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