In a devastating announcement, it has been revealed this morning that Croydon’s Labour-run Council have failed its OfSTED inspection - judging social services for children to be ‘Inadequate’ across the board.
The department, under the direction of Labour Cabinet Member Cllr Alisa Flemming, have three months to prove to the government that it has the ability to significantly improve. If they fail this, then the government will deem the service irreparable and putting children a risk and will remove the ability to run social services from Croydon Council.
The last full children’s services OfSTED inspection took place in 2012, when Croydon Council was run by the Conservatives. At the time it was rated ‘Good’ and ‘Adequate’ for the various measures that OfSTED use to make their assessment. Tellingly it was seen as having ‘Good’ capacity for improvement at that time.
Today’s deeply disturbing judgement reveals a chaotic and mismanaged service, going sharply backwards under Croydon’s Labour administration, reversing what was measured as a positive direction of travel in 2012. Labour could have built on this legacy, but instead they allowed this vital service to crumble.
Cllr Maria Gatland, Conservative spokesperson for children and young people, has slammed Labour’s performance: “This is the first time children’s services in Croydon has ever been judged to be failing, and it should be greatly concerning to every parent in the borough. Labour has squandered the progress made under the Conservative administration and is failing Croydon’s most vulnerable children and young people.”
Today’s news means that Croydon Council may find that its children’s social services are taken away from its control for good. It has just three months to demonstrate that it can be trusted to manage the required improvement, and if it fails our Social Services Department could be removed from council control and run by an independent trust. The Government has already appointed a commissioner to oversee the work for the next few months and the council has been forced to set up an Improvement Board made up of government experts, its own senior managers, consultants, the administration and a member of the Opposition - Cllr Maria Gatland.
Croydon Conservative councillors have today demanded an Extraordinary Council Meeting to give the press and public the opportunity to witness councillors discussing this vital issue. The meeting will debate the motion: ‘This Council regrets the failure of this Labour administration to operate safe and effective children and families social services and apologises to the people of Croydon for running a service found by OfSTED in September 2017 to be inadequate across the board. The Council pledges to deal with the failures and weaknesses outlined by the report including addressing the poor political oversight highlighted.’
Cllr Tim Pollard, Leader of Croydon Conservatives (and former lead member for Children’s Services 2008-14), comments: “This is a really sad day for our town and proof that Labour is failing the most vulnerable families in our town. The scale of the neglect outlined in the OfSTED report is staggering in its failure. That the report tells us that the political leadership was unaware how bad it had let things get is a damning indictment of Labour’s shocking neglect of basic Council duties.
“Cllr Alisa Fleming has been responsible for this area for nearly four years. She has fundamentally failed in her duty as the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Learning. She needs to consider whether the department, and Croydon’s children, are safe with her remaining in that position.”
The full OfSTED inspection report can be read online here.
Notes to Editors
The key findings of the report are:
- ‘Too many services for children and young people in Croydon are poor. This means that not all children are kept safe from harm or are helped early enough.
- Senior leaders know that services need to be better, but they have taken too long to take action to improve them.
- There are widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children and their families in Croydon that leave some children at risk of significant harm.
- Children do not receive robust and timely responses to ensure that risk is reduced and their needs are met. The local authority was required to take immediate action in a small number of cases identified by inspectors during the inspection.
- Since the local authority was inspected in 2012, there has been significant deterioration in the quality of service provision. Poor managerial oversight of cases fails to ensure that basic social work practice is of a good enough standard.
- Too many children wait too long for a decision to be made as to whether they need to be looked after, or they return home without sufficient support. This has left them at risk of significant harm from neglectful parenting.
- A lack of challenge from the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) has not assisted in raising safeguarding standards in the local authority.’
These are verbatim quotes from the report.
The commentary on the role of elected members in 2017 is in stark contrast to the commentary in 2012 when the lead member was Cllr Tim Pollard. Below is the relevant section from the 2012 report in full:
58. Ambition and prioritisation are good. Elected members are effective in raising the profile of children and young people across the council. The Lead Member, who has held this role since 2008, chairs the Children and Families Partnership Board, which includes regular meetings with representatives of the Youth Council. He is well informed about the quality of services at a strategic level and at the front line and is committed to improving outcomes for children and young people. Elected members have protected front line services from the most severe budget cuts, and have supported the co-location of early intervention staff and children’s social care services, which is enabling better communication and helping to ensure that children and young people receive the most appropriate services for their needs. Plans for a multi-agency safeguarding hub are well advanced and are intended to strengthen further the quality of partnership working and improve outcomes for children and young people.
For further information about this or any other issue relating to the Conservatives in the London Borough of Croydon, please contact Cllr Tim Pollard on 020 8251 8500.