Plans to axe almost 900 jobs and save £62 million have been drawn up at Birmingham City Council’s children, young people and families department.
Radical reorganisation including a cull of management posts and a 30 per cent cut in back-office administration are proposed for children’s social services, where safeguarding provision for youngsters at risk of sexual and physical abuse has been condemned as inadequate by Ofsted.
In documents leaked to the Birmingham Post, officials set out an action plan aimed at remodelling social services by working more closely with GPs, hospitals, health centres and the police to prevent family breakdown and stop children from reaching the stage where they have to be taken into expensive care.
The transformation proposals have been drawn up by Tory city councillor Len Clark, who has been given a special cabinet role to improve social care.
Children’s social services is currently working to a Government improvement plan which is being overseen by a 15-person management board.
Coun Clark (Con Quinton) said: “There is hardly a role in the service that won’t be altered. The whole thing is going to be reshaped.
“We won’t turn things around by merely making modest alterations. We need a full-scale remodelling exercise.”
But the changes were given a lukewarm reception by Birmingham MP John Hemming, chairman of the Justice for Families campaign.
Mr Hemming said remodelling would not prevent social workers from making “stupid decisions” by inappropriately taking children into care.
He gave the example of a teenage girl in his Yardley constituency placed in a home after a row with her mother. The girl was “seriously harassed” at the home and is now pregnant, he added.
Mr Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) said: “The outcome for that child is far worse after being taken into the care system than if she had been allowed to stay with her mother.
“Some social workers are power-crazed individuals who want to mess up people’s lives and they are allowed to get away with it. They’re off their rockers.”
It’s also been confirmed that moves to appoint a replacement for children, young people and families strategic director Tony Howell have not succeeded.
Mr Howell took early retirement this month but none of the candidates to succeed him were deemed to be good enough.
Council leaders have decided that interim strategic director Eleanor Brazil, reported to be on a consultancy contract of between £800 and £1,000-a-day, will remain in charge of the troubled department for at least a year.
Ms Brazil, credited with transforming Haringey social services after the Baby Peter tragedy, has appointed one of her former colleagues to a top post.
Mark Gurrey has joined Birmingham from Haringey Council as deputy director of change management and will spearhead the departmental shake-up.
About 300 jobs are expected to go in children’s social care, 125 in youth and education welfare services and 450 jobs in the central administrative core.
In addition, up to 4,000 part-time workers in schools cleaning, catering services, music tuition and health education are set to leave the council’s employment and form their own social enterprise, competing directly against private sector companies for contracts with city schools.