Crisis in Cardiff deepens as minister and council fall out

A highly critical inspection report has sparked a furious row
between the largest council in Wales and the Welsh Assembly,
writes Alex Dobson.

Assembly minister for social services Jane Hutt has invoked a
protocol against Cardiff for dealing with matters of serious
concern, following the inspection carried out by the Social
Services Inspectorate Wales (SSIW), which showed that children and
young people in the city were still not being served well.

She warned Cardiff that more significant action could have been
taken: “I must however make it clear that while I have concluded
that invoking the protocol is the most proportionate response at
this stage, I have also seriously considered using my powers under
Section 7A of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 to
impose directions upon the council, in response to the outcome of
this report.”

The report follows last year’s damming joint review which
highlighted a number of concerns about services for vulnerable
children, placing Cardiff social services amongst the three worst
departments in England and Wales.

The latest report said that some children on the child
protection register did not have an allocated social worker or a
robust protection plan, and inspectors found that there were 80
cases waiting for initial assessment by social services. They were
so concerned about 16 of the cases that they were referred to the
interim chief social services officer, for review.

Hutt said: “This report has highlighted, even more graphically
than the joint review, the gravity of the problems in children’s
services in Cardiff and how much remains to be done.  I am
concerned that those who depend upon these services – especially
vulnerable children – are not yet guaranteed a reliable and
consistent response.”

But Cardiff’s deputy council leader (schools and
children), Peter Perkins, said: “It is incomprehensible to us
that the minister has ignored the constructive approach that we
have been taking with the SSIW and in the process unilaterally torn
up the agreement between the Welsh Local Government Association and
the assembly.”

He said that following the joint review, the council had
embarked on a wide-ranging and ambitious programme of reform.

Jane Hutt said: “Under the protocol for dealing with serious
concern, agreed recently between the Welsh Assembly Government and
the Welsh Local Government Association, the Chief Social Services
Inspector, Graham Williams, I will write to Cardiff Council setting
out the improvements needed and how this will be monitored.”

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