Sub-standard social services for children are threatening to damage Birmingham’s reputation, city council leader Mike Whitby has admitted.
He was talking after the council finally reached agreement with the Government over an improvement plan for young people at risk of sexual and physical abuse.
Safeguarding services were found by watchdog Ofsted to be inadequate following a number of high-profile cases, including the death of seven-year-old Handsworth girl Khyra Ishaq, who was starved by her mother and stepfather after social workers failed to intervene.
Children’s social care in Birmingham is now being run by a 15-person improvement board, with an independent chairman appointed by the Government.
The board’s members consist of representatives from the council, health trusts and police and include Eleanor Brazil, the city’s new Strategic Director for Children.
Ms Brazil, reported to be on a salary of £1,000-a-day, helped restore the reputation of Haringey social services after death of Baby Peter.
In the improvement plan, the board commits itself to ensure that “effective child protection systems” are in place within a year and to develop well-trained and motivated social workers.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) told a cabinet meeting that Birmingham’s aim to be regarded as an excellent provider of public services would not be realised until vulnerable children could be certain of receiving protection.
He added: “The reputation of our city is challenged by this.
“We are absolutely committed to improving, this is something that transcends party politics and we are determined to do better.”
The improvement plan states: “Our vision is for Birmingham to be an inspiring place where all children and young people and their families enjoy living, learning, developing and achieving together whilst feeling safe and secure in a city that is child and family friendly.”
The document adds that current arrangements within Birmingham “are not sufficiently robust enough” to protect the most vulnerable children and young people in the city.