Social workers should always believe children when they complain about being abused and then try to obtain evidence, a new Birmingham social services director has said.
Colin Tucker, who was recruited to run the city council’s much-criticised services for children at risk of physical and sexual violence, said he would be telling staff to be more prepared to take what youngsters said at face value – and then “check and chase” for proof.
The council is mid-way through a year-long improvement plan imposed by the Government after an Ofsted inspection found services for young people at risk to be inadequate. The ruling led to Birmingham City Council being reduced from a two-star performer to one-star status by the Audit Commission.
Mr Tucker, who began his new job a fortnight ago, told a scrutiny committee: “The message I give to staff is that you believe children and you progress and check and chase. I am saying to my staff they should believe children, make referrals and seek out evidence.”
His comments came as the council revealed a sharp increase in the number of domestic abuse cases in Birmingham. In some parts of the city incidents of women being beaten, often in the presence of their children, have shot up by 50 per cent since 2007.
Hot-spots include Handsworth, Soho, Nechells and Aston, with social workers blaming the increase on family tensions caused by high unemployment and the recession. There are in excess of 1,000 children in Birmingham on the protection register, and more than 2,000 in care.
Mr Tucker insisted Birmingham was on the way to addressing concerns about the standard of children’s services.
He said: “We had the six month review of the improvement notice and the Government is satisfied that we are making progress.
“It’s a really good position to be in six months into the notice.”
His optimism was questioned by Councillor Len Clark, who is leading a scrutiny inquiry into children’s services.
Coun Clark (Con Quinton) said: “The key for me is to make sure that whatever action plan we put in place, it delivers improvements. We need to address fundamental issues about performance.”