CHILDREN SUFFER

From the cradle to the grave, Sandwell’s Labour council fails its people. On the day that the latest Ofsted report on the council’s Childrens’ Service was published, Sandwell could only seek to divert public attention by trailing an increase in fees for funerals.

The Childrens’ Service is important because it protects, (or is supposed to protect), the most vulnerable kids in the borough. Frequently, they will be those who have had the worst start in life; babies and children who, for their own safety, have had to be removed from their parents because the parents have abused them physically, sexually or emotionally or were simply so incompetent that they posed a risk to child safety.

Because the local authority has had to step in to replace such carers it is vital that the care it provides is of a high standard. Otherwise looked after children risk going from pillar to post and suffering twice over.

Unfortunately, the Ofsted report, published yesterday, again, for the third time, judged Sandwell’s Childrens’ Service inadequate. More alarming still is that things are getting worse. Two areas previously judged as “requiring improvement to be good” in the previous inspection are now categorised as “inadequate”.

In 2016, government, having lost any confidence in the ability of Sandwell council to improve, required the authority to establish an independent trust to run the service . On 2nd December 2016, Cllr. Hackett, the responsible Sandwell cabinet member, informed Express and Star readers “The aim is for the Trust to be in operation by next summer” i.e. by the summer of 2017.

A trust chairman in the person of Jacqui Smith, a superannuated Labour politician and failed Home Secretary under Gordon Brown, has been in post for six months. Her response to the report; she may need a bigger budget, she still has to get her ducks in a row and may be able to dash into action in a couple of months’ time. Truth is, so far, she’s been an expensive waste of space.

Only luck in Sandwell has prevented a child fatality such as there have been elsewhere, because of social service deficiencies. The Ofsted report reveals it’s unclear how far children in Sandwell’s care have been exposed further danger because of delays or failures to act.

This situation can't be permitted to continue.