New Birmingham’s children’s services chief in pledge to improve department

THE latest head of Birmingham children’s social services has vowed to take the action needed to help the department finally lose its ‘failing’ tag.

The city council’s troubled children’s services has been under pressure over a series of high profile deaths of children known to social workers, including Khyra Ishaq and the branding of the department as “inadequate” by Government inspectors.

Last week the director of children’s services Colin Tucker, who was brought in to turn the department round two years ago, was suspended.

Now Eleanor Brazil, interim director of children’s services, has pledged to deliver on the overdue promise to improve children’s social care, recognising that the service may currently be letting down some of the city’s most vulnerable children.

Ms Brazil is credited with transforming Haringay Children’s Services following the Baby Peter tragedy and is now aiming, against a backdrop of children’s services cutbacks, to do the same in Birmingham.

She admits it is a difficult challenge and warned that they will never be able to put a complete stop to children dying at the hands of their parents or carers.

“Children will continue to die at the hands of their parents.

“Even where there are the best systems and processes in the world they have been unable to stop that happening.

“What we can do is minimise the risk. At the moment I can’t be 100 per cent confident that is what is happening in every case, but that is what we aim to do.”

While Ms Brazil refused to comment directly on Mr Tucker, she said of the department: “The pace of change hasn’t been quick enough, there have been issues around assessments and there has been some concern about leadership of children’s services.

“Things have been difficult for some time, it takes time to change that. It takes good leadership and clear direction and that is a big part of my role.” She agreed that Birmingham, as the UK’s largest local authority serving a diverse population, offered one of the most testing environments for social work. Last year there were more than 30,000 contacts between the department and vulnerable children.

“It’s a very difficult job. Children will always be at risk, that is why we have child protection plans.

“All we can do is minimise the risk. It is a balance between the risk to children remaining in the household and offering support to families.”

She is making moves to retain good social workers in Birmingham and build further links with health services, the police, schools and voluntary sector.