A Reality Check For Children’s Services

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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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You Can’t Go Wrong

You can't go wrong 010

Wirral Globe followed up the announcement of the resignation of  Julia Hassall -Wirral Council’s Director of Children’s Services –  by publishing a leaked email which was sent to Wirral’s teachers.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15287600.Leaked_email_reveals_no_regrets_for_Wirral_Council_s_departing_child_safeguarding_chief/

Inevitably it was also leaked to us (and is published in full below) . Even more inevitably we feel the need to deconstruct Julia’s touching message for Wirral Leaks readers.

We’ve also received further leaks that suggest that morale in Children’s Services is at an all time low. As we’ve said before this is THE most difficult work and the biggest responsibility any council worker could ever have. The personal safety and future life chances of other people’s children are entirely dependent on them. So why do Wirral Council ask staff to work in the most toxic and dysfunctional environment you could ever imagine?

Might we suggest that what doesn’t help the situation is receiving the following  leak: ‘Keep an eye on newly appointed senior manager Simone White. She was a lack lustre team manager at Wirral Council children’s services for many years until joining OFSTED as a senior inspector.  Conflict of interest ??’

Or just another opportunist on the local government gravy train. Somewhat like dear Julia herself. In her farewell letter she inevitably tells us about the ‘improvement journey’ . Presumably this journey involved an improvement to her bank balance , as no doubt she will be another recipient of a tidy severance package as yet another reward for failure paid for by us.

On Wirral it seems ‘you can’t go wrong’ even when you go wrong !- but only if you’re a senior manager and a) you know too much and b) you’re prepared to take the fall

No wonder Julia ‘No ‘ Hassall tells us she’s ‘fine’ . Because that’s all that matters. As long as Julia’s ‘fine’ what does it matter about working class kids?

We also have to tell you that the news of her resignation doesn’t come as a ‘shock’ .  A senior Wirral Council manager not getting sacked and not receiving a big fat cheque – now that would really be a shock!

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to make sure you are aware that I have sadly decided to resign from the council. 
I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together, and I am grateful to you all for your dedication and hard work.
It has been challenging, demanding work and I know we have made progress, particularly since September last year as part of the improvement journey. We are clearly on the road to delivering the improvements which are required and this has been recognised by colleagues at Ofsted and the DfE.
I feel that now the new senior team is in place and there is a clear vision for the future that now is the right time for me to seek new challenges elsewhere. As you know I have been dedicated to improving outcomes for Wirral’s children, young people and families and I know you will continue this work.
To ensure stability, Deborah Gornik will be recommended to Council this week to assume the role of DCS on an interim basis, in advance of a recruitment process to arrange a permanent replacement for me.
I appreciate this news will have come as a shock to you. I want to assure you that I am fine, and I will continue to work in Hamilton Building this week to ensure a proper handover.
I am confident that the changes you are making will be the right ones to secure the best outcomes for children now and in the future.
Regards
Julia