Logan Mwangi: Independent review needed of Wales' social services

By India Pollock
BBC Wales social affairs correspondent

Published
Image source, South Wales Police
Image caption,
Five-year-old Logan Mwangi was removed from the Child Protection Register a month before his death

Wales needs an independent review of children's social work after the death of Logan Mwangi, an expert has said.

Prof Donald Forrester has said there are "profound problems" with the system, and now it is in "crisis".

The British Association of Social Workers Cymru agrees that an independent review should be a priority.

The Welsh government said it is committed to transforming children's services.

Logan Mwangi, five, was murdered by his mother, stepfather and a teenager in July 2021.

He died after suffering a "brutal and sustained" attack at home, leaving him with "catastrophic" injuries.

His body was dumped in the River Ogmore, close to his home in Sarn, Bridgend county.

The family was known to social services, but Logan was removed from the Child Protection Register a month before his death.

'Out of line'

Prof Forrester says that in Wales and in the UK there has been "quite a number" of child deaths requiring reviews with the involvement of social services.

He has called for an independent review of all children's social work - similar to those that are being undertaken in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He added that Wales is "out of line" in not carrying one out.

Image source, South Wales Police
Image caption,
Five-year-old Logan Mwangi was described as a "really sweet, happy-go-lucky child" by a neighbour

"I think to continue just doing what we're doing when we know it's not working is not good enough, we need to think about potentially radical ways of doing things.

"If you keep on doing the same things, you can't expect different outcomes.

"We'll have very high numbers of children in care, and we'll still feel like we're not protecting them and the two are not unrelated," he said.

'Huge concerns'

The British Association of Social Workers Cymru agrees.

Its national director for Wales Allison Hulmes said social workers were not included in the planning during Covid.

She said initially there was no guidance for social workers about how to protect children during the pandemic, but they did not stop all face to face home visits entirely.

She added there were "huge concerns" in relation to children's safeguarding before the pandemic, particularly around the recruitment and retention of social workers.

There is no centrally collated data on the numbers of social worker vacancies, but Prof Forrester was told by one local authority that they had a 40% vacancy rate.

She said before the pandemic there was a lack of social workers and that complex caseloads were too high and that this got worse because of Covid.

She added that social workers had gone "over and above" in supporting and safeguarding vulnerable children, and they continued to do so.

"It's not right that Wales is the only nation in the UK that hasn't undertaken a review of children's services, we need independent scrutiny," she said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
There was a lack of social workers before the pandemic and this got worse because of Covid-19

The Welsh government said that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 introduced new and strengthened safeguarding arrangements.

It added that it is "committed to transforming children's services".

The Welsh Conservatives,Welsh Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru all support the call for an independent review.