A Reality Check For Children’s Services

Brazil September.jpg

As you can see from the above report in the latest edition of Private Eye , children’s services troubleshooting troubadour and serial cheque collector Eleanor Brazil has now rocked up in Croydon.

Of course we remember Ms Brazil as the woman who bailed out of Wirral earlier in the year ,raising her hands in the air , like she just don’t care and claiming to be ‘shocked and appalled’ by the ‘shoddy’ treatment of  Julia Hassall ,Wirral Council’s chosen scapegoat for a series of failures in Children’s Services. Unfortunately Ms Brazil failed to enlighten us further on what she meant by ‘significant corporate issues’ which she felt were hindering progress on the ‘improvement journey’  (groan).

Portrait of A Gobshite

So we’ll fill in the blanks – Children’s Services still leave a lot to be desired and those controlling the show won’t face up to reality. This is evidenced by a couple of  council meetings held this week . Firstly at the Audit & Management Risk Committee Wirral Council ‘s external auditors Grant Thornton presented their annual findings and noted the risk to Wirral Council in the Executive Summary of the report.

In September 2016 the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and
Skills (Ofsted) issued its report on the inspection of the Council’s services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers. The overall judgement was that children’s services were rated as inadequate. The inspection found widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection.
We recognise that the Council has made progress to improve Children’s services and the Improvement plan actions are designed to achieve the required service
improvements. However, recent Ofsted monitoring visits confirm that progress in
some areas has not yet met expectations and the Council acknowledge that it will take some time to implement all the actions that should deliver the required service improvement.

Grant Thornton Audit Findings

Subsequently there were gallant attempts from new Director of Children’s Services, Deborah Gornik, and her Deputy, Simone White , to steady the sinking ship at last night’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Whilst they hinted that Ofsted may be pleased with progress in some areas it is clear there are still some choppy waters to navigate on the ‘improvement journey’. Incidentally, we understand that Ms White is a poacher turned gamekeeper turned poacher as a former employee of both Wirral Council and Ofsted and now second in command back at Wirral Council.

But Deborah and Simone should fear not ! – help is at hand as councillors have agreed to undertake a series of ‘Reality Check’ visits to enable them to engage directly with frontline staff in Children’s Services. Hurrah !  – it’s just a shame the arrangement isn’t reciprocal and frontline staff  get to ‘reality check’ councillors and find out whether their failure to properly scrutinize Children’s Services, being forever in denial, turning a visually impaired eye to problems and being more concerned about reputation management than the safeguarding of children contributed to frontline staff having OFSTED inspectors crawling all over them. Could this be the ‘significant corporate issues’ to which Ms Brazil referred to?

Talking of a reality check we note that we’re still awaiting the publication of the Serious Case Review report concerned with the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case that we commented on earlier this year . As we reported in our  Basket Case Review article :

I suppose we have to wait for the publication of the Serious Case Review in the summer before we can FULLY judge the failings of Wirral Council and other statutory agencies involved in the appalling Rajenthiram brother’s depraved exploitation of our most vulnerable.

A quick look out of the window will tells us that summer has long since passed – so where are the findings of the Serious Case Review ? However we do note there was an exempt item at last night’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee – could the Serious Case Review report have been discussed then? Or is that a reality check too far for now?

 

 

 

 

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Portrait of a Gobshite

Brazil 2

Of course we’re in favour of leaks. So we applaud the leak of troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil’s resignation letter to Wirral Globe . 

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15325055.Leaked_resignation_letter_shows_Wirral_s_improvement_board_boss_was__shocked_and_appalled__by_director_s__shoddy__treatment/

Having said that we can’t help feeling that after reading her letter she’s like all those local government gobshites who have gone before ( take your pick – there’s a long list of leeches who have taken our money for mealymouthed public pronouncements)

Delicate flower Eleanor claims to be ‘shocked and appalled’ by the treatment of outgoing Head of Children’s Services ,Julia Hassall by Wirral Council . Note she didn’t mention she was ‘shocked and appalled’ by the victims of Child Sexual Exploitation.

Of course she wasn’t. In her world ‘poor’ Julia matters – vulnerable working class girls don’t.

As for the use of the word ‘shoddy’  – how about trying  ‘shitty’ to describe how the shite who govern Wirral Council treat people. How many times have we commented about how senior managers are tossed into the gutter – whilst the real trash remains in place like shit on a shoe ?

It’s simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH that to come out with statements like:

However we know that the service faces many challenges and there are also clearly some significant corporate issues hindering the ability of the service to be more efficient.

We’re sorry to have to tell you Ms Brazil  but the people of Wirral paid for your expensive gig and accordingly you’re answerable to us. No, really! – and you need, NO WE DEMAND, that you break down exactly what you mean by ‘significant corporate issues’

Name names ,  break down for us what the issues are – or are you just another local government gobshite who takes the money and runs and leaves us all ( and particularly vulnerable people) in the doo-doo ?!

 

 

The Inadequates

Inadequate 012

So it would appear like many before her  , Wirral Council has driven top notch Children’s Services troubleshooter Eleanor Brazil , nuts .

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15319099.Now_top_Government_troubleshooter_quits_Wirral_child_safeguarding_board/

As we know Ms Brazil was brought in to share her considerable expertise in an attempt to turn round the deeply troubled council department.  We understand that Ms Brazil was fully prepared to challenge the powers that be.  As we know the powers that be don’t like that. They much prefer to be in denial. We can remember Michael Frater, the last straight talking troubleshooter Wirral Council had to call in when their Department of Adult Social Services (DASS) had brought them in into disrepute through a multitude of failings . He didn’t last long either.

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/more-allegations-from-the-boiled-frog-council/

It’s such a great shame government commissioners weren’t called in then, but as we know, Frank Field did his string pulling thing to spare the blushes of bent,incompetent councillors and the rest is history. And of course, as we all know, if people don’t learn from history – they are bound to repeat it. And so here we are again – not only in Childrens Services, but also it would appear in DASS.

We’ve previously chronicled  that the parlous state of safeguarding of the vulnerable is not confined to children:

Carry On Matron

Indeed it is astonishing to think that whilst Children’s Services is subject to inspection of their safeguarding arrangements by Ofsted there is no equivalent for DASS.  The Care Quality Commission (CQC)  are now just responsible for inspecting individual services. Of course the last time CQC did check on Wirral Council’s safeguarding arrangements for adults – they were found to be ,yes you guessed it, inadequate!

Following an inspection by CQC the latest addition to the long list of inadequates goes to Acrefield House,  a care home for people with learning disabilities run by Mental Health Care (MHC) Ltd.

After reading CQC Inspection report which records that :

“There were repeated and targeted physical altercations between people living at the home. Many of these had been documented and there was a clear and recognised pattern that had not been investigated, or resulted in any safeguarding referrals being made. This meant that people were not safe living at the home.”

http://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/new_reports/INS2-3237079974.pdf

Reference is also made to staff inappropriately restraining residents and that there was in -fighting between the staff team. Overall the report is a horrorshow and once again we have to ask whether DASS actually monitor the services we pay for and why does it take a CQC inspection to discover that vulnerable people are not safe?

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/constant-fights-unsafe-uncaring-ineffective-13113852

Could it be because they’ve previously ignored concerns  raised about Acrefield House. We’ve been informed that a member of the public did just that and nothing was done about their safeguarding concerns. And please,please ,please don’t tell us it’s about ‘cuts’ . Time to wake up to the fact that the calibre of people who are supposed to safeguarding the vulnerable either directly or indirectly on Wirral  – is INADEQUATE. We’re convinced that Eleanor Brazil recognised this. Therefore we’d invite her to comment on why she has quit and whether she endorses our view that Wirral is ‘ No Country For Old Men/Women/ Children & the Vulnerable. ‘   

Inadequate 010

Acrefield House : No -one knows what goes

Bernie The Bruiser Plays The Blame Game

Bernie in White

Bernie’s glare makes grown men weep.

The latest instalment in the scandalous Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case which is mainly being played out by press release to the Liverpool Echo involves the new Cabinet lead for Children’ Services and also the new- frighteningly – Deputy Leader of the Council, Bernie Mooney.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/warning-more-heads-roll-wirral-13054956

Anyway Bernie the Bruiser has gone all gung ho on us and told us that she ” will leave no stone unturned” in finding out how opportunities were missed to protect young girls from abuse and “if that means heads will roll ,so be it”

Oh give over,love, we all know that’s never going to happen with Wirral Council’s senior managers . As we can see from the ‘resignation’ of  Director of Children’s Services, Julia Hassall . Now in the real world ,if someone resigns , they resign and go on to ‘greater challenges’, ‘spend time with their long suffering family’ or take up gardening/golf/alcoholism  and that’s the end of it. Not with Wirral  Council . Oh no – ‘resignees’  get a pay off to make sure that none of the culpability for myriad failures can lead back to the self serving power elite. Somewhat like a slug trail. Yes, best put the stone back in place and keep the slugs out of the glare of the sun. Has anyone noticed that after all the high profile departures in the officer ranks these past few years (and at our expense) that the same old incompetent,dishonest and corrupt councillors are still running the show?

And as for the claim that ‘heads will roll’  – that caused our eyes to roll.  Because if Bernie the Bruiser was true to her word she’d have her Labour colleague Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s head on the chopping block for starters. We have to await the publication of the forthcoming Serious Case Review into the CSE horror story to find out where agencies and which particular personnel let abused girls down.

However we know already that there has undoubtedly been a failure of scrutiny by Wirral Council. We also know that the Serious Case Review goes back to a time when their governance arrangements were found to be wanting  and which contributed to a series of damning reports involving Adult Social Services. So what did subsequent administrations decide? – give the scrutiny of BOTH Adult Social Services and Children’s Social Services to the political lead previously responsible for failing vulnerable adults. Step forward Matron McLaughlin! You really couldn’t make this shit up!

Told You So

Accordingly might we suggest that Bernie the Bruiser needs to go easy with the threats for now because if she’s  prepared to  batter already battered staff into submission and play the blame game she needs to ensure that the stone she’s unturning doesn’t get chucked back at her.

Frequently Asked Questions

what da faq
A student journalist called ‘Charlie’ has been in touch . Apparently he’s writing a public affairs story for an assignment and has asked us some pertinent questions . We thought it would be a useful exercise to share his questions and our answers with readers and critics alike as it will save us a lot of time explaining what we do and why we do it :
1. Why did you start your blog? And what are you hoping to achieve?
Astonishingly we’ve just realised the blog started in November 2010. So you could say we’re heading for our ‘Seven Year Snitch’ !  Wirral Leaks started as tool to give an alternative voice to town hall spin – often using satire to expose Wirral Council corruption . Our ‘Contact Us’ page reads: ‘Hello Citizens! If you have news, grievances or proof of bullying, incompetence, cover ups and malpractice share it in confidence HERE wirralleaks@gmail.com & one of our operatives will get back to you.’
This sums it up. Where else can people go? 
What are we hoping to achieve ? – the downfall of western civilisation or failing that waking up the apathetic electorate of Wirral! We think it is fair to say that many significant Wirral Council public interest stories might never have been fully exposed or quickly forgotten about if we hadn’t existed. There are too many to list here but our readers will have their particular favourites. 750 posts and an ever increasing readership suggests a continuing need for this type of blog.   
2. How much attention does your blog have? What impact does it have?
It all depends whether you’re talking about blog stats (read them for yourself) or attention that is actively sought. We have Facebook and Twitter links but we don’t whore ourselves out on social media – it’s madness out there!
It’s fair to say we only seek approval of our mates and who we consider those to be our (superior) peers. We’ve been referenced in Private Eye as an ‘excellent local blog’  – high praise indeed! and local freebie Wirral Globe newspaper who’ve described us as ‘caustic’, ‘mischievous’ and only today (19/4/17) in Granty’s Inferno as ‘guardian of the free press’ . Guilty as charged on all three counts!   
Although there’s a concerted effort by the powers that be not to give us any recognition we’ve been mentioned in legal proceedings,council meetings and independent investigations. We have been contacted by representatives of ALL local political parties and recently were surprisingly given the endorsement of a senior local political figure (more on that at a later date). Having said all that we’re probably not the ones to ask when it comes to impact – you’re best asking targets of our stories who contact us (usually after a few scoops too many ) . There’s public impact and personal impact. There’s also our impact on the reputations of those in power and the decisions they make.This is incalculable.  
3. What would you say are the main issues with the council?
Where to begin?
The two words that we receive get most often to describe Wirral Council are ‘ shambles’ and ‘cesspit’ . So we’ll go with that description – shambolic cesspit.
Wirral Council was described in an independent review in 2012 as a place where the ‘abnormal is normal’. Despite their desperate pleas that ‘lessons have been learned’ nothing has changed . All of the slugs that were around then have slithered their way back and acquired yet more slime along the way.
4. Where would you say the council should focus their spending? 
It’s not for us to say where Wirral Council should focus their spending. Councillors get elected to do that – unfortunately their IQ doesn’t seem to equate with those making the real decisions as they are too easily duped by senior council officers who just want to get through Monday to Friday with the least minimum effort. Doing things properly or in the public interest doesn’t come into it!   
However what we will say is that we do know where they shouldn’t spend it on serial failures or paying off incompetent,corrupt council officers – INSERT NAME HERE.  
5. What was your take on the council bringing out the ‘Wirral View’ paper?
We were trying to keep this clean but FFS have you read the wretched thing? And have you read our repeated ripostes? When you read that a damning report about how Wirral Council’s Children Services and their assorted partner agencies have repeatedly let our vulnerable children down is reported that Wirral Council is investing £10 million in Children’s Services you know the true intent of this sinister publication.
The fact that Wirral Council are actively seeking advertising suggests they want to put the local press out of business. The question is – what are they going to do about blogs like us?