Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, is visiting Cornwall’s troubled social services department next week for a meeting with the council’s deputy director and social workers.
The meeting follows the controversial resignation of Dean Ashton, the council’s former director of children’s services, who bowed out in anticipation of an Ofsted report to be published at the end of this week. The upcoming report is a follow-up to an unannounced visit to the council by Ofsted in August that flagged up concern.
The meeting will be Dawson’s third visit to the council. In June, he met with social workers in Cornwall as part of his listening tour around the country. Dawson said he found the concerns raised at this meeting so alarming that he requested a meeting with Ashton, then director of children’s services, to discuss matters further.
Concerns raised included reduced standards of child protection, gaps in children’s services, the removal of experienced workers from the frontline and bullying within the authority. Many of the social workers said these areas had been made worse by a restructure of the authority that merged six districts and one county council into one unitary authority. They told Dawson that not only had the reshuffle disrupted work, but also caused discontent within the department as workers did not feel they had had any say in the reorganisation.
“I found some very dedicated social workers in Cornwall,” said Dawson. “They really want to promote positive change and it would be a lot better if they were part of that process rather than having it done to them.”
The meeting with Ashton was scheduled for 2 October, but Ashton was unable to attend for reasons never explained. Instead, Dawson met with Sheila Smith, deputy director of the council, and a group of social workers.
“We had a good meeting with Sheila,” he said. “I think she listened very well to some really disturbing things. I really hope that from that kind of positive communication, Cornwall are going to see some positive change, but we shall see next week.”
Ofsted’s latest report on the council is due to be published on Friday.
Ashton declined to comment when contacted and Community Care is still awaiting a response from the council.
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