Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

This Report Reassures People That We Know What We Are Doing

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

This Report Reassures People That We Know What We Are Doing

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul McMillan

Children's services in Newcastle have been rated as 'adequate' by inspectors. Here the city council's director of Children and Youth Services, Catherine Fitt, tells Paul McMillan how it is working to improve

After the tragic deaths of babies Aaron O'Neil and Alexander Gallon, social workers found themselves in the spotlight.

Aaron was murdered by his father, Paul O'Neil, of Kenton, who was jailed for 22 years.

Alexander died in a fire at his home in Cowgate started by his mother, Danielle Wails, who was given a three-year community order.

Both babies were known to Newcastle City Council's child services department and, although no blame was attributed to individual social workers, reviews were launched into how the cases were handled.

The city also found itself under national scrutiny as inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Healthcare Commission, the Adult Learning Inspectorate and the Audit Commission brought forward an inspection.

The Joint Area Review offered a score of two out of four for most, with "capacity to improve".

Four is 'outstanding', three is 'good', two is 'adequate' and one is 'inadequate'. Newcastle was rated as adequate.

This prompted MPs including Newcastle Central's Jim Cousins and Newcastle North's Doug Henderson to demand answers.

After the publication of the latest report, Mr Cousins said he was becoming concerned that a department rated as 'excellent' three years ago appeared to be slipping.

But today Catherine Fitt, the city council's director of children and youth services, hit back and said like-for-like comparisons don't apply.

"I can understand it might be confusing for the public and I understand that they need to be reassured about the safeguard arrangements in Newcastle," said Ms Fitt.

"The inspection that has just taken place has never happened in Newcastle before.

"This is a totally new inspection, we can't compare it with others. …

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