The NHS in Birmingham must shoulder its share of the blame for the city’s consistent failures to protect children a Government troubleshooter has claimend.
He said: “It takes two to tango, and the NHS has not been a good tango partner.”
Lord Warner, who was appointed Birmingham children’s commissioner in April, 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.
He 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.”
The Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board – the forum through which social workers, police, health professional and school staff are expected to share information on children at risk has also been ‘dysfunctional’ said 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’.
On a brighter note he said that he is noticing positive improvement within the council’s children’s services department and believes it is heading in the right direction after years of failure. “We can’t say every child is safe, but the City Council is in much better place than it was a year ago,” he said and added that there is much work to do on retention of good staff - particularly at the crucial team leader level.
However he has placed a £140 million price tag on investment over three years, but said it is not his job to lobby the Government for more money. The cash strapped council has just announced a further £20 million investment in 2015/16 – some way short of the total.
The commissioner has also suggested the council ‘market test’ social care services to ensure they are getting good value for money.