Birmingham City Council Children's Services to get commissioner

Keanu Williams A serious case review into the death of Keanu Williams in January 2011 heavily criticised all agencies involved in his care

Related Stories

Birmingham's Children's Services - rated "inadequate" for the past four years - is to get an external commissioner to oversee the running of the unit.

There have been 20 investigations over child deaths since 2007, though not all were known to social services.

Children's minister Edward Timpson said former health minister, Lord Norman Warner, will be the new commissioner.

The appointment follows a report handed to ministers last month.

'Challenge and support'

Under the plans announced by the Department for Education (DfE), the local authority will still retain control of its children's services.

Birmingham has seen several serious case reviews in recent years

Between 2007 and November 2013 there were 20 serious case reviews in Birmingham, following the deaths of youngsters like Khyra Ishaq in 2008 and Keanu Williams, in 2011.

A peer review in February suggested improvements were being made in the department and a £10m investment plan was announced by the council in December.

Mr Timpson said however, he remained very concerned about the safety of children in Birmingham.

He said an independent panel of experts would also be set up to "challenge and support" the city council.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said he welcomed the recommendations and the report set out a "compelling account of the reasons for, and the lengthy history of shortcomings".

LeGrand's recommendations

  • A DfE study exploring how children's services in Birmingham are commissioned, to be presented by 30 September
  • The installation of a commissioner, supported by a panel of independent experts
  • Senior staffing arrangements to be examined by the commissioner and fed back to the Government and the Council's chief executive by 30 April
  • The commissioner to provide updates to the secretary of state every three months and to report no later than 31 March 2015 on "whether further directions are necessary to ensure improvement"

"In doing so, it also highlights the significant challenges that come from the scale of deprivation facing communities in Birmingham," he said.

Commenting on his appointment, Lord Warner said vulnerable children in Birmingham deserved "to receive the care and protection that they can rely on when the responsible adult has failed them".

He said he would work with the city council to put in place the "immediate improvements needed".

The commissioner is expected to work alongside but independently of the council, supported directly by the DfE.

Labour peer Lord Warner was a health minister from 2005-2007 and Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department of Health from 2003-05.

'History of failure'

Birmingham City Council is currently the subject of an Ofsted inspection, expected to be published in May.

The council's director of people, Peter Hay, said the authority "fully expect[s] to remain inadequate" according to the findings of the inspection, but the report had given it greater clarity on how to make improvements.

"This time, we face this inadequate judgement with the clarity given by this report about what is going to be different and how we make change and improvement stick," he said.

Mr Hay added the report suggested "low-risk" measures to aid the "fragile" recovery.

"Given the prolonged history of failure and the fact there are green shoots of a recovery, albeit a frail one, now is not the time for high-risk options," he said.

Lord Warner Lord Norman Warner will oversee attempts to improve Children's Services

Cabinet member for Children and Family Services, Brigid Jones, said the report was "comprehensive, accurate and honest".


The warm glow that surrounded the council's decision to appoint Peter Hay as director of children's services last summer seems to be lasting. Morale and recruitment are up and sickness levels, though still high, have stabilised over the past six months.

But much still needs to done. Today's review suggests there may not be enough social workers across England willing to specialise in child protection. Many of those that do regard working in Birmingham as a "blot on their CVs". Making the department more appealing, including upping salaries, needs to be a key priority.

The city could still lose its responsibility to protect children as the Dfe looks at ways of commissioning child protection services outside local authority control.

The threat is clear: if inadequate child protection units fail to improve, their duties will be removed.

"What this report shows is that we must stick to our long-term improvement plan and not be dragged back into the short-term thinking that saw us making knee-jerk changes as a response to every poor Ofsted inspection," she said.

The report identified "a long-standing under-investment in children's services" and a "stand-alone culture" within the department.

It said: "For a variety of reasons, over many years the corporate/political centre appears not to have paid enough attention to the department and to the service that it was delivering."

The report's authors also identified a department "haemorrhaging social workers" and, until recently, disjointed management with senior staff leaving and posts remaining vacant.

They added the council may also face the problem of "possible unidentified risk to vulnerable children".

"There may be many children in Birmingham at risk who have not been properly identified as such, or, if they have been, their risks have not been properly addressed," they said.

The council said Professor Julian Le Grand's report had identified a possible nationwide shortage of social workers.

Birmingham Council House Birmingham City Council's Children's Services department has repeatedly come under fire because of several high-profile child deaths

It said figures showed it took five years to train a social worker but the average length of service was seven years.

Labour MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, said the "halfway house" decision not to remove control of children's services from the council and install a commissioner was a "better way" to approach the problems.

"It allows the council to build on the pace and build on the knowledge that's happening, it's about working together [with central government] and building for the future," he said.

Mr Mahmood agreed there was a sense of "report fatigue" in Birmingham, after earlier reviews of children's services did not seem to yield improvements that were called for.

"We need to ensure when the report comes back in April that we are able to review it and see how it goes," he said.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Birmingham & Black Country



23 °C 15 °C

BBC Local Live

    'Vibrant' event 11:52: Richie Anderson BBC WM reporter

    People at Small Heath Park are describing the event to celebrate Eid as "vibrant and electrifying".

    Eid celebrations in Small Heath Park

    One man said: "It's a great day to relax, chill out and enjoy an eventful day with friends and family.

    "We've fasted hard for 30 days and now we want one day to enjoy ourselves."

    Cash machine shut at night after thefts 11:41: Birmingham Mail

    A furious postmaster has started switching off his cash machine after it was allegedly repeatedly targeted by a suspected Eastern European card reading scam gang.

    999 phone streaming 11:33: David Gregory-Kumar Environment correspondent, BBC News

    West Midlands Fire Service has been speaking about its plans to overhaul the traditional 999 service.

    West Midlands Fire Service phone app

    About two thirds of emergency calls are being made on a mobile and they wondered if there was more they could be doing.

    They showed me how they plan to get 999 callers streaming video of the scene straight back to the headquarters and even to firefighters en route to the blaze.

    Crime commissioner submissions 11:24:

    Candidates standing in the West Midlands police and crime commissioner election have under an hour to submit election addresses and candidate statements.

    The by-election will take place on 21 August following the death of Bob Jones.

    Cheerleading winners 11:17: Sutton Coldfield Observer

    Pupils from an Erdington school shone at a regional cheerleading competition.

    'Joyous time' 11:04: Birmingham Updates

    tweets: #EidMubarak

    Eid Mubarak

    Share your photos from today's celebrations on email and Twitter.

    In the news 11:00: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    Thousands of people are gathering in Small Heath park for what's expected to be the biggest outdoor event in Britain to mark Eid.

    It's the biggest religious holiday of the Muslim calendar - our reporter Richie Anderson spoke to one man about the celebrations. Listen live

    UKIP's Stourbridge candidate 10:52:

    UKIP have selected MEP James Carver as their candidate in Stourbridge for the next general election.

    MEP James Carver

    Conservative Margot James currently holds the seat.

    Delays around Small Heath 10:44:

    BBC Travel News says there are delays on Coventry Road in both directions in Small Heath, Birmingham, between the A45 Small Heath Highway junction and the B4128 Cattell Road junction because of the Eid celebration event at Small Heath Park.

    Your views 10:41: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    What you think of BBC Local Live? We'd like your feedback about the service we run in Birmingham and the Black Country from the BBC WM newsroom.

    Thousands celebrate Eid 10:31:

    Thousands turned out in Small Heath at 09:00 for morning prayers.

    Eid prayers in Small Heath Park at 9am

    Green Lane Mosque set-up a live video feed on YouTube.

    Union condemns decision 10:25: Birmingham Post

    Unite union's top automotive official Roger Maddison said the decision by Solihull-based Unipart Automotive to call in administrators rather than seek a buyer was "very disappointing".

    'Amazing atmosphere' 10:18: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    We're asking you to get in touch and let us know if you're celebrating Eid today.

    Shanelle tweets: Small Heath Park is heaving and the atmosphere is amazing MashaAllah #CelebrateEid #EidMubarak

    Police thrown from van 10:08:

    Police have released footage of an officer being thrown to the floor after a van drove away following reports of a burglary in Upper Balsall Heath Road.

    Officer thrown from car

    Police, who are appealing for witnesses to the incident in May, said: "As he [the officer] grabbed the handle the vehicle began to accelerate away and, despite clinging on as it gathered speed, he was thrown to the floor."

    In the news 10:00: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    Experts say the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was down to "colossal bad luck".

    One of the report's authors, Dr Richard Butler from the University of Birmingham, says dinosaurs might still be alive if the asteroid had struck a few million years earlier.

    Hear more in the news on BBC WM

    Cricket: One-Day Cup 09:49:

    Warwickshire opened their One-Day Cup campaign with a narrow four-run win over Middlesex at Lord's.

    England batsman Jonathan Trott, who continued his recovery from a stress-related illness with a County Championship century in midweek, top scored with 78 in the Bears' 240-7.

    Reporter heading to Small Heath 09:43: Chris Blakemore News editor, BBC WM

    Our reporter Richie Anderson is on his way to Birmingham's Small Heath where up to 40,000 people are gathering for Eid celebrations.

    You can hear more on Simon Lederman's programme on BBC WM throughout the morning.

    Tandem time-trial 09:36: Johnny Palmer BBC WM Sport

    There's been a second gold medal for Halesowen's Helen Scott piloting Sophie Thornhill in the paracycling tandem 1,000 metres time trial.

     Helen Scott piloting Sophie Thornhill at the Commonwealth Games

    Scott told BBC Sport: "I knew from the very first rev it would be a good one but I had no idea we would go that fast."

    And there was a silver in the cycling for Andy Tennant from Wolverhampton. Jess Varnish from Bromsgrove won another bronze in the Women's 500 metres time trial.

    U-turn over living wage 09:24: Express and Star

    Hundreds of council workers are poised to be paid the living wage after a U-turn by bosses - in a move that will cost about £330,000 in extra wages.

    'Let's do this' 09:15:

    AlamMr tweeted this photo as thousands gather in the park to celebrate Eid.

    People gathering in Small Heath Park to celebrate Eid

    Share your photos of the day's celebrations on email and Twitter.

    Eid celebrations 09:05: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    Eid celebrations are taking place in Small Heath Park today organised by Green Lane Masjid and others.

    More than 40,000 people are expected to gather in the area to celebrate the last day of Ramadan.

    If you're going down there we'd love to see your photos - get in touch on email, Twitter and Facebook.

    In the news 09:00: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    A Birmingham mother says her 14-year-old daughter is staying away from school because she's being bullied.

    We'll hear what she has to stay in the news shortly on BBC WM.

    Top headlines
    The future of 999 08:54: David Gregory-Kumar Environment correspondent, BBC News

    I recently went to the West Midlands Fire Service HQ in Birmingham to hear them discuss new ideas about how to "supercharge" the traditional 999 emergency call.

    Smethwick fire

    A year ago, the service was dealing with one of the largest fires we've ever seen in the West Midlands - a blaze at a plastics recycling plant in Smethwick.

    There's been much praise for the way all the services handled the fire, but it's not a surprise to learn the initial response was much smaller than would eventually be needed. Read my blog to find out more.

    Dumped dying kittens saved 08:46: Birmingham Mail

    Four dying kittens were snatched to safety after being cruelly dumped in the middle of a busy Birmingham road.

    Slow traffic due to tunnel closures 08:37:

    BBC Travel News reports there's slow traffic on the A38(M) Aston Expressway inbound in Birmingham City Centre between M6 J6, Spaghetti Junction and A4540, Dartmouth Circus, because of the planned tunnel closures.

    Gold! 08:27:

    Another great win for triathelete Jodie Stimpson over the weekend in the team relay at the Commonwealth Games.

    Gold medalists Vicky Holland, Jonathan Brownlee, Jodie Stimpson and Alistair Brownlee of England

    Stimpson teamed up with Vicky Holland and the Brownlee brothers to take gold. Watch the highlights and read more on BBC Sport.

    Cost of childcare 08:18:

    The cost of childcare in the West Midlands has gone up by nearly a third in the past five years, while wages have largely stayed the same.

    According to the Family and Childcare Trust, one in five parents has to take time off work to look after their children because they can't afford the full time fees.

    Sunny morning ahead 08:05:

    Some sunshine this morning but also cloudier periods with perhaps one or two showers which may be locally heavy.

    Becoming generally dry this afternoon with increasing amounts of sunshine. Feeling warm with just a light northwesterly breeze, highs of 24C (75F).

    Good morning 08:00: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    A nice bright start to the morning and a new week. This was the sun over Wolverhampton this morning.

    Sun shining over Wolverhampton

    I'll be bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather for Birmingham and the Black Country.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.