Birmingham City Council has been ordered to make “robust and sustained” improvements to its children’s social care services following the deaths of 15 youngsters from abuse and neglect.
Officials confirmed that the government had notified the authority’s leader that an improvement notice is to be served, requiring it to make rapid progress during the next year.
The measure, which was welcomed by the council, follows the deaths of 15 children, some of whom were in contact with social services over the past four years. In a letter to the council leader Councillor Mike Whitby, children’s minister Beverley Hughes also confirmed that a package of support would be provided to help improve services.
The minister said she was very concerned that Ofsted inspectors had identified a number of issues around the safeguarding of children in Birmingham, deeming part of the city council’s services to be inadequate.
Ms Hughes wrote: “Given the critical importance of managing risks to children’s safety and the need to ensure that progress is made swiftly and decisively, I have instructed my officials to work with Birmingham to provide a package of intervention support.
“I am keen to see swift improvements in Birmingham and for children, young people and families to receive the service they deserve. I have decided to underpin the measures and progress I expect with an improvement notice.”
The support package will see two interim assistant directors recruited to work on the Safeguarding Children service while a team of external consultants will also conduct a root-and-branch review of the city’s Safeguarding Children Board.
Progress will be reviewed after six and 12 months and statutory powers may be used if sufficient improvements are not made, Ms Hughes warned.
The support package was welcomed by Birmingham’s strategic director for children, young people and families, Tony Howell. “This is a positive development,” he said. “The Government is expecting robust and sustained progress which they will review after 12 months.
“But rapid progress is something we have been determined to drive through ourselves and I am pleased the Government has recognised our capacity to do that whilst strengthening the resources available to us.”