Social Services Chief Shock at Bad Practice

The Birmingham Post (England), November 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

Social Services Chief Shock at Bad Practice


Byline: Paul Dale

The director of Birmingham's failing social services department has spoken of his dismay at uncovering examples of bad practice among social workers.

Peter Hay, who vowed to put the needs of service users first, admitted: 'I have been shaken by our ability on occasions to lose sight of the people we are here to serve.

'We need to ensure our reasons for change and improvement start and end with making the needs of service users and carers better.' His remarks were delivered in a letter to staff commenting on the decision by Government inspectors to rank Birmingham social services as a no-star, failing organisation for the second year running.

A survey by the Social Services Inspectorate concluded that none of the vulnerable children looked after by the city council were being served well. Children's services were judged by the SSI to have uncertain prospects for improvement.

Mr Hay said: 'No stars is not a comfortable position for any council. We know that the verdict that we are serving no children well is justified by the inspection evidence.

'It is important that we see change . Above all else, improvements in services are needed by those who rely on us to meet their needs.'

Mr Hay, who joined the council in the summer, said he had discovered examples of high standards of practice that had been 'simply stunning'. However, these were balanced by negative images.

Mr Hay said changes at senior managerial level were already beginning to deliver progress in the provision of social services, but he warned that it would take a long time to meet the highest SSI standards.

'For Birmingham, the pathway to the stars will be long,' he admitted.

Senior officials from the SSI underlined the gravity of the challenge facing social services in Birmingham at a meeting of the council cabinet yesterday.

Janet Galley, who headed an SSI inspection into Birmingham children's services in July, said: 'The biggest problem was the quality and standard of individual social work practice in relation to children and families. …

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