Swansea Accused Of Letting Down Vulnerable Children

Vulnerable children are not getting the protection they need from social services in one of Wales’ cities, a damning report has found.

A routine inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales has revealed deep-seated concerns about the standard of service provided to children in Swansea.

It found that “considerable improvements” are needed, especially in the core areas of assessment, care management and protecting vulnerable children.

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, said, “This report has highlighted the gravity of the problems in children’s services in Swansea.”

The report and inspection comes after Swansea Council was heavily criticised in the wake of 13-month-old Aaron Gilbert’s murder in May 2005.

His mother Rebecca Lewis, 21, from Townhill, became the first British woman to be jailed for a new charge of familial homicide – doing nothing to protect her child from attack, in December 2006. She is serving six years.

Her partner, Andrew Lloyd, 23, who battered Aaron to death, is serving at least 24 years for murder.

A report published earlier this year revealed a catalogue of errors and said that social workers failed properly to follow up child abuse allegations.

The Care and Social Services Inspectorate report, published yesterday, follows an inspection of Swansea’s social services’ department in March and April.

Its subsequent report found that some assessments were poor and children were not being seen as they should.

It added that too many children referred to social services had no social worker, leading to some children not receiving the standards of service they needed to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Ms Thomas said, “I am concerned that those who depend upon these services – especially vulnerable children – are not guaranteed a reliable and consistent service.

“I wish to see evidence of substantial improvements, particularly in the authority’s responding promptly and appropriately to referrals of concern about children and in their management of work with children and families, including their compliance with the regulations and guidance drawn up to safeguard children and promote their welfare.”

Ron Pickford, the chief inspector, added, “This review identified serious concerns in Swansea’s children’s services. I have made clear to the chief executive and director of social services my expectations.

“The authority has much work to do to improve its children’s services.”

Wendy Fitzgerald, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for social services, said work on an “ambitious programme” to improve children’s social services was “progressing well”.

She added, “We are already working hard to ensure that young people are getting a consistent and reliable service.

“For example, I am pleased to say that 100% of children on the child protection register have their cases reviewed within the statutory time scales.

“These children are among the most vulnerable in our communities and they can be reassured that Swansea Council is listening to them and acting in their interests.”