City Social Service Scrutiny Ends

The largest social services department in Wales is no longer under Welsh Assembly Government scrutiny after improvements were made. Cardiff’s social services had been heavily criticised in the way it dealt with protecting vulnerable children. In 2002, it had one of the worst inspection reports in Wales and England and has since been monitored every three months by an assembly body.

The council welcomed the news saying it was recognition of hard work by staff.

The Cardiff Council department had previously been heavily criticised for failing some of the most vulnerable children in the city. Reports showed there were “inexplicable delays” in dealing with child protection cases.

The report released in September 2002 showed that by late 2001, the number of referrals of children’s cases had stockpiled to 163.

They included a two-year-old with a facial cigarette burn and cases of alleged sexual abuse.

There was also a case in which a child showed signs of a blow to the head, and two weeks later suffered secondary burns after being dragged over tarmac.

Inspectors criticised the running of the department as being “macho” and damaging to staff morale, and as a result the report said that children were in danger.

As a result, inspectors were sent back to the department a year later, but although some efforts had been made to improve, vulnerable children were still at risk and services to support and protect them were not consistent.

Detailed monitoring of the department by the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales was undertaken every three months to oversee improvements.

On Wednesday, Welsh Health Minister Dr Brian Gibbons announced that this monitoring would cease after inspectors no longer saw the department as “subject of serious concern”.

Dr Gibbons said: “The council and its officers deserve congratulating for the substantial progress they have made in overcoming serious past problems and improving the service.

“I am confident that the council not has sufficient capacity and resilience to continue progress of its own accord.”

Acting Chief Inspector of Social Services for Wales, Richard Tebboth, confirmed the decision to the council.

He said: “The council now responds much more promptly and effectively to initial concerns about children and is much more reliable in planning for their welfare.”

He added that better systems were now in place within the council.

Cardiff Council has welcomed the decision.

Neelam Bhardwaja, the council’s corporate director of opportunities, described the move as “very positive recognition of the hard work” undertaken by staff.

She added: “This is an opportunity for the service to leave behind the unfortunate legacy of the joint review of 2002 and build on the progress it has made towards being an efficient, effective and responsive service.”

The department will continue to report details of its progress and performance to the council’s scrutiny committee every three months as well as reporting to the assembly government every year.

The council’s children’s services as well as the adult services will be subject to a joint review to begin in 2007.