Birmingham & Black Country

Walsall children's services improvement 'may take year'

Interim director of children's services in Walsall, Rose Collinson
Image caption Interim director of children's services in Walsall, Rose Collinson, praised colleagues' commitment

Improving a children's services department in the West Midlands could take another year, a council said.

An Ofsted report had found vulnerable children in the Walsall area were being "left at potential risk of harm".

Inspectors visiting in June rated safeguarding services as inadequate, the lowest of four ratings.

But an improvement notice from the government was likely to be received by Walsall Council in the next few weeks, the authority said.

An improvement notice shows a council has taken steps towards making a service better.

'Tighten up'

Ofsted had said it was concerned "current safeguarding practice and management systems do not consistently ensure that the most vulnerable children in Walsall are effectively safeguarded or protected".

The report had particular concerns over risk assessments, with inspectors witnessing high-risk situations incorrectly identified as low risk.

Walsall Council said that several senior staff, including the director and deputy director of children's services, had left their posts, but were not sacked.

The new interim director of children's services in Walsall, Rose Collinson, said: "When I came and met with colleagues what struck me was their absolute... commitment to making it better for children and families in Walsall."

Image caption Social worker Ravi Sharma said further cuts would make the job more difficult

But she added: "We need to tighten up and smarten up on who's best placed to do what, to make sure the right people, including our social care staff, are working with the right families in the right way."

The council said it could take a year to 18 months to reach its targets, after the report.

The Ofsted report identified that the area had had problems in retaining the most experienced social workers for a number of years.

Walsall Council said the lowest paid social workers used to get £22,000 but the basic figure was now £30,000.

'Same opportunities'

Cheri Francis, a senior practitioner at Walsall safeguarding family support team, said: "For front-line staff the changes have been really fast coming in.

"That has meant more work for workers, but it's meant that the aim is to get a more [uniform] service right across the board to make sure that all families we're working with are receiving the same opportunities."

Social worker Ravi Sharma said she was worried about the issue of potential future cuts to local authority funding.

She said: "If there's more cuts and more budget changes, it just makes our already difficult job even more difficult."

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