Mixed picture over child services in Swansea

Outside experts will continue to oversee the work of Swansea council’s social services department a year after they were first appointed.

They were first called in due to fears the local authority was failing to protect vulnerable young people.

Deputy social services minister Gwenda Thomas told assembly members progress was being made, although services were “inconsistent.”

Swansea council said it now had to build on the report.

The assembly government’s unprecedented intervention last year followed two critical reports which severely criticised the way the council protected vulnerable children.

As a result an independent board was appointed to monitor the department’s daily work and to report back to ministers.

In an update to the Senedd, following a fresh inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), Ms Thomas said: “I am pleased to hear of the progress that is being made.

“CSSIW found clear experiences of good practice being delivered by front line staff.”

But she said was clear there had been significant increases in workloads over recent months with higher numbers of looked after children and children on the child protection register.

She said: “CSSIW makes clear that whilst ‘sound and effective momentum for change’ is now in place ‘there remain further challenges to deliver and sustain service improvement’.

“The review team judged, again to quote the report, ‘that the local authority remains at present, uncertainly placed to deliver and sustain service improvement’.

“I therefore strongly believe that it is in the interests of children in Swansea that the order I made remains in force and that the intervention board continues.”

The council’s cabinet member for social services, Nick Tregoning, said: “The important thing now is to build on this foundation to ensure these improvements are embedded in the service.

“I am pleased to learn the report considers the building blocks for sustained improvement are now in place.”

Swansea’s Labour leader Cllr David Phillips said: “The report acknowledges that progress has been made, and made against a dramatically increased workload.

“However, with only two out of 14 measures showing improvement, it is clear that the progress has been insufficient.

“The deputy minister has given us six months to make significant improvement. Whilst there is undoubtedly momentum for change, the rate of progress must speed up considerably if we are to meet this target.

“It is clear that the clock is ticking”.

Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies AM said: “Reports last week about events in Swansea graphically illustrate what happens when things go wrong in children’s services. Such tragedies must not be repeated.

“I commend the work that has been carried out to date but recognise that these green shoots must now grow into a sustainable service that operates robustly and effectively.”