Government takes action over Birmingham’s failing children’s services

The government has appointed an external commissioner to oversee improvement in Birmingham’s failing children’s social care services. 

Labour peer Lord (Norman) Warner, a former health minister in the Blair years, has been appointed to turn things around. 

Education minster Ed Timpson made the decision following Professor Julian Le Grand’s report on ways forward for children’s services in Birmingham. 

The service has been rated as “inadequate” for the past four years and has seen a number of high-profile child deaths in recent years. 

Lord Warner will be supported by an ‘expert panel’ comprising of chief social worker Isabelle Trowler and other experts and leaders in the field. The panel will be independent of the council, and will be supported by a small team of Department for Education (DfE) officials. 

A new study has also been commissioned to explore how improvement capacity can be created or promoted in the children’s services system nationally. As part of this work, specific consideration will be given to potential longer-term solutions for Birmingham, the government says. 

Timpson said: “This will report to me by September 2014. A further report by the end of the year will make recommendations specifically about the best long-term commissioning approach for services in Birmingham.” 

In response to Prof Le Grand’s report, the leaders of the three political groups on the city council, councillors Sir Albert Bore (leader of the city council and Labour group), Paul Tilsley (Liberal Democrat group leader) and Lord (Mike) Whitby (Conservative group leader) are in cross-party agreement that “vulnerable children and young people in Birmingham both deserve and should expect a united and consistent focus from politicians, officers and partners”. 

They added: “The report set out a compelling account of the reasons for and the lengthy history of shortcomings. In doing so, it also highlights the significant challenges that come from the scale of deprivation facing communities in Birmingham and sets out a compelling case for addressing the exceptional levels of needs facing children.” 

(Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

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