Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cllr. Chris Wells–Comments on Children's Social Services

It's not something I often do but in the light of comments made elsewhere on this web site it seemed handy to republish Chris Wells thoughts on social service to which he agreed.

Margate and Cliftonville County Councillor Chris Wells, was the Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Services during its last formal inspection in 2008, when it was adjudged to be one of the best in the country. The Gazette asked him exclusively what he though had changed so radically during the last two years……..

‘The first thing to say is that inspections are not always the best measure of good social work. There will be excellent practice going on in any number of cases, but if the legal deadlines have not been met, and the files are not up to date, there is an almost automatic assumption that practice as a whole is poor.

In addition the nature and style of inspection has changed during the last couple of years. Previously, we knew in advance when the Inspectors were coming, and, with a bit of research with fellow councils who had been recently inspected, how they were likely to work. I once commented that my Directors spent around 40% of their time getting ready for inspections, and only 60% on the day job. Haringay’s experiences demonstrated, amongst other things, that the inspection regime as it was could give a department a clean bill of health when there was some very poor practice going on. Now the inspections are not announced and rather more difficult to manage.

The result is that many are being caught out by the new regime; some third of all councils inspected to date under the new regime have been judged inadequate, so Kent is not alone.

The current report contains three consistent and underlying criticisms of the Kent children’s social service operation. Firstly, it identifies concern for social worker caseload, vacancy rates, concern regarding the recording and timing of looked after children actions, and supervision. This presents as a failure to provide solid evidence of consistently good practice across the county. Kent could argue that the timing of this inspection has actually provided a snap shot at a time of great difficulty, when many of these problems are already identified, have management action in place, but have not yet delivered the expected solutions.

This is actually a criticism of the level of professionalism able to be delivered in social work across the county, stretched by vacancy rates and increasing workloads. Kent is already running a number of innovative solutions to the recognised national difficulties in recruiting new social workers; and has indeed been highly successful in bringing new talent into the county at newly qualified, and pre qualified levels. This has lowered the vacancy rates across the county, but has created a differently shaped structure for social work, which in number terms is heavily dependent on newly qualified and relatively inexperienced social workers. This feeds into the supervision concerns as the vacancy rate at Principal Social Worker, the level at which the guidance for these newer entrants is vital, is much higher, an issue discussed in some detail at the last Vulnerable Children’s Scrutiny Committee.

Once again Kent has already moved to cover these gaps, and place in each area a supervision champion to promote the importance of this basic element of social work good practice. Kent’s own innovation in bringing European and other nationalities of social worker into the county to help fill the gaps also attracted criticism, for not having enough resources to support these individuals for long enough in their early months. These same resources are, of course, already stretched with a 30% surge in social work referrals following the Peter Connelly case in Haringay. Again Kent can claim with some justification it has already put an extra £5m into this department, and promised more if needed.

The second area criticised is that of IT and recording systems. The current IT system was demanded and funded by the previous government following the Climbie Inquiry. It has been a disaster for day to day working from the very start, and fails in almost every area of real requirement to make the work happen. It was supposed to be a case management system, rather than simply a recording system. It does not even record as well as previously used systems, and in spite of constant revision and updating, fails more often than it succeeds, and where it does succeed tends to do so by taking the less than obvious route to success. It has all the hallmarks of most recent government attempts to introduce huge all encompassing computer systems - an enormous waste of money, time, energy and effort: most of which could have been saved if any of the programmers had consulted front line users about the screens and files used most regularly.

The third area is probably the most difficult of all…partnership working and capacity to improve. These are areas in which Kent has previously scored highly, and been commended for its innovation and expertise. Here something has gone seriously awry, in the ability of the management, for both professional and political direction, to convince the Inspectors that they have the vision and ability to change what they know is wrong…and bring their public service partners along with them. This was the same Lead Inspector which we had two years ago, so will have had a real personal base line to work from in comparison.

Generally Kent is a strong authority, with a good track record in getting things sorted when they have gone wrong, and I would expect those areas directly under our control to be dealt with swiftly. Some of these criticisms are based upon national difficulties, however, and can only be dealt with through working and cooperation with government and higher authorities.

In particular it is time we had a sensible debate nationally about the manner in which much children’s social services policy is created. It is unique across public service in being constantly assessed on failure rather than success. Since the Maria Colwell tragedy of 1973, through so many other names and enquiries we could all recite, processes and policy are based on the cry ‘it must never happen again’. Yet the general reasons why these cases happen have a common thread – of people who are wicked, or incapable, and often accomplished and excellent hiders of the truth.

Poor social work practice may well have prevented some similar deaths; it may well have missed chances to prevent some of those deaths; but social workers do not kill children. Many children are given better lives than they would have experienced through the dedication of social workers and their service partners: even in poor scoring authorities during inspections.

The great thing about this report is that it has come to us before a tragedy of that sort. Yes we must act. We must reaffirm our dedication and desire to ensure the most vulnerable children in our society have the support they need and expect. County Councillors, held responsible in their role as corporate parent, will greet the report with concern and disappointment, and must now put their energies into putting it right, and placing our inspected scores where they belong, alongside the first class efforts of our frontline staff.

Truly, to famously misquote, two years is a long time in social work.


  1. just curious if you had seen that SERIOUSLY SORRY website. I love it.

  2. So Kent is a great (Tory) authority, the inspection was a snapshot at a difficult time, there were some issues with the inspection, and it was all the last Government's fault. Well if anyone needed to be reminded that Councillor Wells is a Tory politician...

    The triumph of spin.

  3. oh dear 04:52am, pity you could'nt sleep, Chris Wells statement is balanced and good unlike the nonsense that comes from the local opposition.We have a bankrupt country that is suffering Labour misrule, we have local Labour Councillors grabbing any morsel they can to discredit any local conservative. Chris has laid it fairly on the line, all credit to him

  4. No, 8.29, I have an early start each day, not insomnia. But thanks for your concern. On the Wells article, we must agree to differ. Nice and simple.

  5. I must say I'm getting hacked of with obsessives, if you happen to be one of the constant conspiracy posters, how about you write say 300 words of cogent argument, without libelling any one. Identify yourself and I'll bung it up as a guess blogger if entertaining.

  6. Where is there any mention of conspiracy or any libel in anything here, for heaven's sake? You published a post castigating KCC including over the recent child services audit. You then (fairly) reproduced Wells's article without further comment on your part. I and others have commented/may comment on what Wells has said. What on earth is the matter with you?

    If there is any obsessive behaviour here, it is on your part, I think.

  7. And no, I have certainly never posted anything about conspiracy.orstuto

  8. To be fair, most of the conspiracy stuff which relates to this is to be found on the previous post with 80 or so comments.

  9. A snapshot in time showing the Children’s Social Services to be over worked. Now there is a suprise if the rest of Kent is like Thanet we have become a dumping ground for problem Kids from the London Bouroughs. Which means London gets a good inspection cos the have no kids they are all in Thanet / Kent

  10. Very good thing that spot inspections are carried out rather than pre-arranged when cases can be prepared for inspection.

    Following the baby P case, KCC published in March 2010 titled "Safeguarding children in Kent: defending and developing the service" in which serveral recomendtions were made but none highlighted a failure of the IT systems. Did the inquiry team lead by the chief exec miss this?

    Cllr Wells may recall in 2008 the death in Kent of the 25 day old baby Tiffany Sellman Burdge by her father where social services were warned that he was a potential danger and no action was taken.

    Rosalind Turner, managing director of children, families and education, said that it was an “isolated example of human error”, adding that the authority deeply regretted what had happened. “Human error is always a possibility,”.

  11. What a load of tosh !

    Supervision champion - it will take far more than this, how about transparent honest services for starters.

    Of people who are wicked, or incapable, and often accomplished and excellent hiders of the truth – exactly, some would say this is what is behind this non service.

    Social workers do not kill children – do they just kill and destroy families instead, how many parents have committed suicide because their children have been stolen for forced adoptions.

    Many children are given better lives than they would have experienced – please supply the facts that back up this claim.

    County Councillors, held responsible in their role as corporate parent – all are vicariously liable , how many have been held accountable.

  12. What review would that be Chris in 2008, would you be so kind as to clarify?

    According to the comment
    ‘anon 2.49

    Has Paul Carter lost his marbles or has the log rag got it wrong again or did they do 2 child protection reviews in the same year ?

    'A review of child protection work undertaken by Kent County
    Council's Children's Social Services was commissioned by a County Council resolution on 12 December 2008.'

    Which would make the review in January 2009 not 2008, seems at tad misleading unless one checks the facts. ‘

    Wed Dec 01, 08:51:00 PM

    Kent County Council the excellent delusion

  13. Quote

    Mr Carter said: "I commissioned a report in January 2008 and I am very disappointed the findings were not acted upon."

  14. Unfortunately the conspiracy is only too real, it's world wide and I'm afraid it goes right to the very top, that is why no amount of official local investigations or inquiries will ever uncover what is happening to these kids.

    I can't blame Tony for being hacked off, no one could have failed to notice the veiled threats in the previous post's comments section. But to request an "entertaining" post about this nasty business is a trifle on the insensitive side.

    A brave journalist like Christopher Booker has the slight advantage of being a public persona, which affords him a certain amount of protection from the brotherhood of darkness (but not very much). For a relative nobody to write such a piece and put their name to it would probably be suicidal.

    It is a very sad reality that the general public have been programmed to ignore this government sanctioned child snatching, just as they have been programmed to ignore every other injustice perpetrated against them. This is highly sophisticated mind-control as developed by elitist think-tanks such as the Tavistock Institute.

    Please people, there is enough evidence out there on the web, (it may soon be removed by the recent cyber-security act) but you will not see it on your television screens or in most of the mainstream press, because those media are controlled by the perpetrators of this series of crimes against humanity.

    I ain't kidding about any of this stuff, please check it out for yourselves. Mass enlightenment is the only chance we have.

  15. Cllr. Wells makes a fair stab at giving us the facts but for some people it would not matter what he said. They will castigate the KCC no matter what it may or may not do all the time it is Tory controlled.

    Mind you, our conspiracy theorist would do the same whatever its political flavour for we must not forget that they are all masons, whether Lib, Lab or Con, dangled on pieces of string that are operated by their international banker puppeteers.

    All of which poses the question, were bankers ordinary people before
    they became bankers and did they know about the plot before or after?

  16. Can you imagine going through forced adoption, to find out your baby is being given to a sex offender.

    Let sex offenders adopt & work with children

    All on the Tories watch; not that it makes much difference, as you say Bluenote.

    Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, all drink in the same lodge bar...

  17. Please 7:33PM, don't include me in any nonsense about sex offenders adopting.

    I was very much onsides with the view of the Catholic Adoption organisations for placing children only with married, Christian hetrosexual couples in proven long term stable relationships.

    Guess I will now be labled homophobic, although I am not, as well as a Tory but I am definitely paedophobic. That said, I really do not swallow your allegations of some plot to kidnap children to give to such lowlife creeps.

  18. Nonsense Bluenote ? Are you suggesting the Guardian newspaper would dare to write such an article if it were not true. I must admit I find it hard to swallow, when no matter how much information is put their way about the sickening abuse happening to children and their families both in the past and right now, many simply choose to turn the other cheek.
    Could this I wonder , have something to do with being a non-practicing freemason.

  19. Bluenote, I was rather hoping you'd bring up the bankers, perhaps you will do me the honour of watching this:

  20. I Would never be a social worker, they are always blamed, I unfortunately had a experience with them years ago when a Doctor decided I had "abused" one of my Children.
    I was so impressed with the social workers on the case they where so professional, yet approachable, as where the police, I was traumatised and to be fair I still am, but the social workers calmed me as I realised I was so scared I had done what the doctor said I had done, that I spent 3 weeks just doing the basic's, nappy, feed, clean, sleep, I eventually admitted that I was scared to hug him, kiss him, even comfort him, they really helped me, to make that link back, the doctor caused abuse to my children and me,
    after the first 4 days, of visits, the social workers wanted to go weekly as they said they and the police thought it was a idiotic referral, I was so terrified I asked them to keep coming in, they Did, I can never tell you, how much they helped me get over it, and made me not scared to be Mum, at the end of the process, they, the Nurse child protection and the police asked me to complain.
    there where a lot of procedural errors by the hospital, which I complained about and 1 nurse and 2 doctors where questioned, they where disciplined, I really felt for the nurse as I am one, she admitted her mistakes, the Doctors denied it to the end. I refused to complain about my then having 3 months of Social Workers, as to be honest, I really needed them after that experience in the hospital.
    I have 2 regrets, one I can put right, when I find the power and strength too, is the Child Protection Officer asked me to write it all down for her so she could use it in teaching for Doctors, and the other is I really wanted to buy the Social Workers a Thank You card and some Chocs but realized that could be taken in the wrong way.

    I was told to sue by a solicitor friend when he had read my child's notes.
    I really can not do that as much as it was painful for me, and maybe it hurt my Child for a few weeks when I was afraid to hold him, I am smart enough to realise that Social Workers would be blamed, there would be a knee jerk reaction, and I could never forgive myself, if my suing even if unconnected with that, a child died or was hurt.
    So here is My Card and Box of Choc's to Social Workers of Kent Thanks
    PS the Consultant who referred me as a 999 worst case top priority, hence the daily checks and police in the hospital, took 3 months before he wrote his report and forwarded to the police, which effectively left the police and SW at my whim unless they found a reason to suspect me, hence the after 4 days they wanted to drop it, apparently he should have the report in 48 hrs.
    I didn't but very nearly did have my child taken into care in the hospital, but Social Workers are tops for me, and we should support them.
    I will be anon for obvious reasons. an actually having just written a abridged version, I might well be able to do the longer version for the Child Protection Officer, fingers crossed.

  21. I don't agree, Bluenote, with your point of view about adoption - which is in line with your solidly Tory Party stance on most issues (despite your repeated denials of the fact) - but I understand the premise. Apart from your inclusion of "christian" in the list of criteria, that is. Are you suggesting that a married, heterosexual couple with long-term stability only earns the extra point if they are part of that particular religious club?

  22. 5:23 I do not deny being right of centre for the final time. I hate socialism, having been brought up with it so, if that makes me a Tory, then so be it.

    As to the Christian bit, think you missed the point that I was talking about the criteria for Catholic adoption agencies. There were, and still are, others and any hetrosexual couple in a stable relationship who can provide a loving home to some poor child are to be applauded in my book. That includes all faiths and none.

  23. I did not miss your point about christians, Bluenote, but you said you were "on side" with the Catholic organisation's view, which signalled you subscribe to it too. But you have clarified.

    And good that you have also nailed your political colours firmly to the mast at long last. You had no reason to be ashamed of being a Tory!

  24. Likewise pleased we have reached an understanding. Certainly I am not ashamed of being right wing, far from it, for I remain convinced the 'right' best serves our country's future prosperity. My problem was that some people wanted to dub me a card carrying political activist closely associated with councillors, possibly even one of them.

    I have my own clearly defined opinions, often in accordance with those of the Conservative party but not exclusively so. I am more UKIP on the EU and more with the retired admirals on Ark Royal and Harriers. In the same way I am a christian but often disgree with Rowan Williams.

    Perhaps you may understand now why I dislike being put in boxes for I seldom fit them exactly. Mind you, I believe that is true of a lot of people if they were truly honest with themselves.

  25. anon 4.55am

    Parents who have had their children stolen and in many cases gagged by KCC SS would not agree with you. Gagging orders ensure the truth can not be told. Unfortunately the NHS scenario you describe is also not uncommon and many have found that the SS work hand-in-hand with them against parents.

  26. The child snatching industry has been exposed in a long running series by Christopher Booker of the Telegraph. However, this does not stop the despots and they just ignore and do as they like. We the public are the only ones who can stop what is happening!

    The person who watches someone drown and does nothing is just as guilty as the one who pushed them in the water ~

  27. Child protection: how a cruel council plays its cat-and-mouse game

    cllr_ chris ( is this Thanets own cllr chris ) ?

    “I could understand if what we were dealing with was a few rotten apples in a system that otherwise worked reasonably well. But my own experience with other victims of the SS Child-Snatchers tells me that this is far more widespread, (and even nastier, if that can be imagined!) than even Mr Booker may be aware of. Their style of malicious kidnapping never has, and never will, prevent a Baby P or a Victoria Climbie. The authorities, the politicians, the bureaucrats and even the media (with the honourable exception of Mr Booker and the Telegraph) know the truth, much as they may pretend otherwise, and they say nothing. Such contempt for the child, family, their wilful ignorance and their extraordinary silence is indecent beyond contempt.”


    Belgian Radio – Kent even gets a mention and has its own former Kent County Councillor Ramsgate Tory Ian Josephs who has been speaking out against forced adoption since the 1960’s

  29. What other council involvement ???

    Care to shed some light on this one Chris or will this be labeled just another conspiracy theory ?

    Breach of child safeguarding legislation

    "My FOI requests concern an independent review described in an email to the DfE: “KCC has put a lot of time and effort into helping
    respond to Mrs jago’s [sic] concerns, including an independent
    review commissioned by KCC’s former Chief Executive and carried out by another council.”