Spending cuts led to Brent failing Victoria

Severe underspending in children’s services at
Brent Council resulted in 10 social worker posts being cut, 13
vacancies being frozen, and the whole department being placed
“under acute stress”, the Victoria Climbie inquiry heard last

Ronald Ludgate, who was acting director of
social services during the time of Victoria’s case, told the public
inquiry into her death that the problems that blighted the
department were due to the cumulative effect of adverse funding

Between 1997 and 1999, Brent spent £28.8m
of the £54.9m earmarked for children’s services within its
standard spending assessment on those services.

According to the Social Services Inspectorate,
in 1998 Brent was the second lowest spending authority in London in
relation to its SSA.

The inquiry heard that in 1997 the council
spent £14.3m from an SSA budget of £26.5m. A total of 23
posts were cut or frozen. The previous year an SSI report had
highlighted “serious deficiencies”.

Mike Boyle, who was director of social
services until March 1999, said it was clear the system was
“deteriorating, and deteriorating quite rapidly”.

Brent area child protection committee
chairperson Bridget Edwards wrote to the council’s social services
committee chairperson Mary Cribbin in June 1999 – the month in
which Victoria was referred – expressing “serious concern about the
social work unit’s ability to recruit and retain qualified and
experienced social workers”.

Cribbin said it had been decided that London
weighting would be removed from new social workers’ salaries to cut
costs. But the inquiry heard how this led to recruitment problems
and an over-reliance on higher paid agency staff.

The council’s chief executive Gareth Daniel
admitted there had been serious flaws in terms of professional
judgment and service management at the time of Victoria’s case, and
that the eight-year-old had been “badly served by the professionals
in Brent”.

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