Swindon Borough Council leader Cllr Jim Robbins writes for the Link
Listening to the feedback from Ofsted before they published their report on the Council’s Children’s Services department was the hardest part of my new role as the Council’s Leader so far.
It was hard to hear how the service hasn’t been consistently keeping children safe as the inspectors set out the reasons that they had decided that they rated the department as ‘Inadequate’.
As a new administration, we were told as we took over that there were serious issues with the department and we needed to make sure that we got a grip of the situation quickly.
Along with Councillor Paul Dixon, who is the Cabinet member with responsibility for the department, I contacted Ofsted and spoke to their regional representatives to get their advice.
We were told to trust our new Director of Children’s Service who started earlier this year and give her the support that she needed. We have done this, and I’m pleased that the feedback from Ofsted included sections detailing that she had understood the challenges facing the department and set in place an appropriate action plan to deal with them.
As an administration, we will be implementing the action plan and working closely with Ofsted and the Department for Education to ensure that we are making the necessary improvements,
We are 100 percent committed to making sure the service returns to delivering a good service to children and families in Swindon and will make sure that we have enough money to invest in the department.
This won’t be easy in the current financial climate, as the national government is set to cut our finding once again next year, but we have made it clear that the safety of children is our number one priority.
There are some very clear changes we need to implement as quickly as possible, such as a new computer system which is fit for purpose, but some of the other challenges will be trickier to overcome.
There is a national shortage of social workers and a shortage of appropriate, affordable placements for children in care. We are being charged over £10,000 a week for some placements, which simply isn’t sustainable. We will be lobbying the town’s MPs for action on this.
We also know that we can’t make all of the changes that we need on our own, we need to work effectively with partners to keep children safe, and we really need more local residents to consider being foster carers, supporting us to look after local children in the local area. You can find out more about fostering in Swindon by googling ‘Foster with Swindon Council’.
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