Do you know of any children who witness or even experience abuse at home? If you do, you’re already doing better than Wirral Council.
These are the children who are in the kind of situations, suffering abuse and neglect that most of us, even as adults, never see.
Until this week, most people probably assumed that on something so important, not even Wirral Council could screw it up.
Well, this week, a new report by Ofsted revealed that your Town Hall has, indeed, screwed up. Or, more accurately, screwed up the lives of some of the children whose only mistake was to be born into a situation they never asked for.
Here in Wirral, 2,712 children are in need of specialist child protection services. Almost 400 children are so at risk that they need a formal plan to try to keep them safe. While, for 705 children, the safest option is not to be at home but, instead to be ‘looked after’ by Wirral Council.
Ofsted makes it clear that the most senior directors in the Town Hall have failed to ensure that each of these children has received the help, support and love they need.
Some of these children have been left in emotionally abusive situations because they were ‘miscategorised’.
Some of these children were not told they can have the help of an advocate to act on their behalf.
Some of these children, when approaching the ages of 16 and 17, have simply disappeared from the Council’s radar.
Some of these children ended up as homeless – at the potential mercy of any passing pimp or paedophile.
At the same time, some families who have been given the green light to adopt have not been referred to the Adoption Register.
That means the loving, caring homes these children need,have, instead, been left empty.
The Council’s response? Much hand wringing, carefully worded statements and a bung of £2 million. Strangely reminiscent of the same promises that were made when the Town Hall had been found guilty of deliberately overcharging vulnerable adults for their care.
So, that’s ok then.
Well, actually, it’s not.
Four years ago, (under the Conservative/Lib Dem Council) these same services that are now rated as ‘Inadequate’ were rated as ‘good’.
So what’s gone wrong? Quite simply, a failure of leadership. The report makes clear that the job of ‘Head of Service for Children’s Social Care’ has been left unfilled due to ‘other priorities’.
Spot on with that one, Ofsted.
‘Other priorities’ such as an extra bin for food waste costing £1.5 million or a council newspaper costing £207,000.
The report states: “While a new structure was completed following the appointment of a permanent chief executive 15 months ago, this has not yet resulted in the anticipated improvements.”
Right again, Ofsted.
This ‘new’ structure has seen massive pay rises for people at the top; most recently Labour gave three directors a pay rise of £34,000. 11 directors at the Town Hall are now paid more than £100,000 a year.
So far, not one of these people has resigned or been sacked. Nor, for that matter have any of the nine Labour Cabinet Members or the 20 ‘Pledge Champions’.
Not one of these people has even had the decency to use the word ‘sorry’.
Indeed, when the going gets tough, Labour goes to ground. Keeping their heads down and hoping it will all blow over.Letting the unelected officers take the flak.
Are we really expected to believe that the people who have allowed the service to ‘deteriorate’ are the same people who are now going to turn it around?
And try telling some of the children in the Council’s care that Wirral is now the country’s ‘most improved council’. That’s if you can find them.