Social services report to highlight need for reform

SYSTEMS to ensure social services departments learn the lessons of child protection failures are in urgent need of reform, a major report is expected to warn today.

The Care and Social Services Inspectorate in Wales’ annual report is expected to admit that the brutal death of Baby Peter Connelly in the London borough of Haringey has raised “fundamental questions” about how agencies and professionals are working together.

It is expected to warn that the serious case review process involves “huge amounts of time and resources” but there is little evidence it has improved the protection of children.

When the report is published later today it is anticipated it will caution: “Time and again serious case reviews identify the same issues as contributing to not protecting children, yet still the problems keep recurring. Further, given the increasing numbers, the current arrangements are unsustainable and need urgent reform.”

Specific concerns about private fostering services are expected to be highlighted.

The “overwhelming majority” of privately fostered children are understood to be “highly vulnerable”.

Many privately fostered children, the report will warn, have become “almost invisible to public organisations” which means their vulnerability “often goes unrecognised”.

The document is expected to describe as “very poor” the level of compliance by carers with the requirement to notify their local council about children who have been privately fostered.

It is likely to claim that where privately fostered children are identified, assessments are often not comprehensive and are accompanied by weak monitoring and management oversight. Checks were not always completed and followed up.

It is also expected to warn that the standards of social services varies widely throughout Wales and are “not good enough” in some areas, as well as stating there remains “too big a gap” between the best and worst performing authorities.

It will argue “transformational change” is needed to deliver “better public services at less cost”.

Despite the challenges, the report will claim there has been overall improvement in social services.

Newly appointed Chief Inspector Imelda Richardson told the Western Mail: “Child protection per se across Wales is not working badly at all. It’s important to understand that.”

However, it is understood nearly four out of 10 (39%) of children’s homes need to improve recruitment procedures to ensure the suitability of staff. The report will call for an “urgent action plan” to improve the quality of planning when deciding where a child should be placed.

It is expected to call for a “step change” to ensure staff and carers in the children’s residential and foster placement sector receive the support they need.

Similarly, fostering services are believed to have been inconsistent in the safeguards in place to ensure the suitability of foster carers.

In 17% of services, safeguards did not meet requirements about checks and references.

The fostering approval system is often affected by the time it takes to receive Criminal Records Bureau checks.

It is understood a total of 200 complaints were received by the inspectorate about care homes. Of these, the highest number were received in Conwy (38), followed by Gwynedd (23) and Denbighshire (21).

None was received in Bridgend, Ceredigion or Merthyr Tydfil.

The most common complaints related to personal care and how health needs were addressed.

This was followed by complaints about staffing and management and the quality of the premises.

The report will highlight the major challenge facing Wales with growing numbers of people expected to suffer from dementia.

Research suggests that by 2025 one million people in the UK will have dementia. In Wales today one in five people over 80 – a total of 36,704 individuals – suffers from the condition.

This is forecast to rise to almost 48,000 by 2021.