Calderdale suspends children’s staff after critical report

Calderdale Council, West Yorkshire, has suspended a number of staff from its children’s services department following the publication of an independent review commissioned by the borough.

The report, conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, found problems with initial assessments, child protection plans and a cumbersome ICS system.

Director of children and young people’s services, Janet Donaldson, said the practice of some members of staff “is of concern and as a result people have been suspended”. She refused to specify how many staff had been suspended but she stressed that suspension was a neutral act and was “needed in order to undertake a full and thorough review of management practice”.

“The state of affairs which the report uncovered is unacceptable.”

The report’s inspectors said initial assessments were often not done within the required seven-day timescale and they flagged concerns about the quality of the assessments, saying social workers relied too heavily on the word of parents rather than investigating situations fully.

Child protection plans were also deemed inconsistent. The report attributed this shortcoming in part to the department’s Integrated Children’s System – the borough uses Capita – saying the system was slow and required repetitive entry of information. PriceWaterhouseCoopers emphasised, however, that the Capita system was broadly similar to other e-systems it had observed across the UK.

The report also said social workers in the borough lacked “confidence and verve” as a result of their overwhelmingly heavy workloads.

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