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12.12.14

‘NHS in Birmingham is simply not pulling its weight in protecting children’

The NHS in Birmingham must share the blame for the city’s consistent failures to protect children, the council’s children’s commissioner has claimed.

Former health minister Lord Norman Warner was appointed commissioner in line with the recommendation of a 2013 review by economist Julian Le Grand and Alan Wood, director of children’s services at Hackney LBC, which followed a series of critical Osted reports since 2008. His remit is to help turn around Birmingham City Council’s troubled children’s services department, but he claims the NHS has not helped.

He said: “It takes two to tango, and the NHS has not been a good tango partner.”

Lord Warner has written to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens to ask for his assistance.

In his letter he says: “As far as I can see the NHS in Birmingham is simply not pulling its weight in protecting children.”

The letter highlights an alarmingly low number of children at risk referrals from NHS staff and failure to engage with their colleagues in social care.

“These failings were not simply within the city council. The NHS has a fair measure of culpability.”

He also described the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board as ‘dysfunctional’ during an appearance before the council’s vulnerable children scrutiny committee.

He called for an overhaul of the Board, designed to challenge child protection staff across the city, which he labelled ‘ineffective’.

Lord Warner did note, however, that the council “continues to make steady progress with improving its children’s services” but he warned that “there is much still to do”.

He suggested the costs of safeguarding and looking after more children over the next three years would hit £140m between 2015-16 and 2017-18.

“The financial challenges facing Birmingham are formidable,” he said. “Without some guarantee of sufficient resources and a credible social work recruitment and retention strategy the three-year improvement plan will not be delivered.”

He added that the council’s financial situation “will make it virtually impossible for them to fund the extra £140m” unless there are “further major reductions in other services, some of which may well affect children and other vulnerable people”.

(Image: c. Cristian Bortes)

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