Documents released to Croydon Conservatives reveal Labour council leader Tony Newman and cabinet member for children & families, Cllr Alisa Flemming, missed no fewer than three opportunities to intervene to correct falling standards in the run up to the council failing its Ofsted inspection of children’s services last summer.
In a devastating announcement, it was revealed in September 2017 that Croydon’s Labour-run Council failed its OfSTED inspection - judging social services for children to be ‘Inadequate’ across the board for the first time ever, putting our most vulnerable children in danger.
At the time, Cllr Newman claimed he had no knowledge about the deep issues in the service. He told the Vanessa Feltz show on BBC Radio London: “the service is not of the standard we were being advised it was, it is only in July, literally two months ago, that the chair of the independent safeguarding board, our key adviser in Croydon, advised us the service was in a much stronger position”. Cllr Flemming informed the regular Croydon Cabinet meeting that she, similarly, was unaware that Children Services was inadequate.
Only that’s not true.
WARNING #1 – February 2016
Back in autumn 2014 the council appointed a new chair of the safeguarding board, Catherine Doran. In February 2016, less than half way through her term, she resigned. Her reasons, at the time, were kept secret. Now it has been revealed that she ‘resigned in February 2016 giving as her reasons that neither the then Chief Executive nor the then Executive Director had responded sufficiently to her concerns. Her concerns related to both practice issues and to the lack of performance information.’
The Executive Director and the then Chief Executive of the Council also resigned their posts within four months of Ms Doran leaving.
WARNING #2 – March 2016
An inspection of part of the service in March 2016 concluded that ‘management oversight at all levels is weak. Supervision is ineffective in the majority of cases seen by inspectors. For some, there were long gaps in the frequency of supervision, and records show a lack of reflection and clarity about actions required in a significant number of cases. This leads to a lack of direction and purposeful work with children, and contributes to unnecessary drift and delay. Senior managers have not created good conditions in which social workers can flourish. A number of social workers told inspectors that they are not clear about what they need to do.’
WARNING #3 – December 2016
Croydon Council’s safeguarding board, one that Cllr Alisa Flemming is meant to attend, issued a report in December 2016 which highlighted: ‘In the overall analysis, Practice Week concludes that our service Requires Improvement but is on the cusp of inadequate, with some deterioration in practice since October 2015.’
The report goes on to list significant failings in how children at risk are identified, how their care is planned, how the authority works with the courts to intervene and how social workers don’t receive adequate supervision (again).
From July 2015-2017 Cllr Flemming had an attendance record of 28% for the safeguarding board. Perhaps if she’d attended more, she wouldn’t have missed the multiple warnings.
In September 2017, the official FAILED status was given to the Croydon's social care service by OfSTED - a full 19 months after Cllrs Newman and Flemming were first informed of the crisis.
The Whistle-blower, likely a Croydon Council Officer sick of the deceit from Labour, said in their letter ‘I think it important Cllr Flemming be honest and act with dignity in relation to this matter’.
We couldn’t agree more.
It is in that vein that we call on Cllrs Newman and Flemming to do the honourable thing. We see no other alternative than to demand fresh leadership from those elected to run our Town Hall for us. Cllr Newman is the Leader of the Council. Cllr Flemming's sole responsibility is the running of children's services. They have dropped the ball in a way that Ofsted believes is putting our most vulnerable children in danger – even worse was that they about the crisis for at least 19 months and did nothing about it.
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