Ofsted’s latest report on child protection in Sandwell makes for grim reading – but it doesn’t come as any real surprise. It judges our service “inadequate” across the board, or in other words “failing” or “broken”. It’s the worst possible rating.
We already knew we were in a bad way through our own internal checks – and in fact we told Ofsted we’d fail an inspection.
That’s why we signed a contract at the end of last year with a private sector specialist called iMPOWER for a package of support and an experienced Director of Children’s Services, Simon White.
It was one of the very few positives in the report –although Ofsted said the partnership hadn’t had long enough to make a real impact.
Saying that, I won’t make any excuses because there aren’t any. I accept the verdict and have already said sorry to children and young people in the borough; we have let them down and that is unacceptable.
That’s why I think it right the cabinet member in charge, Councillor Bob Badham, and the service director Helen Smith, have stepped down from their posts.
Bob was a cabinet member for a long time and he did a lot of good work but child protection is a basic we have to get right, full stop.
In fact it’s also why I have asked Councillor Simon Hackett to take over our children’s services. I’ve worked with him for several years and he has shown real drive, enthusiasm and determination.
A father of four, a local man and an experienced cabinet member, he’s a straight-talker who gets things done. It’s a big challenge but I’m sure he will turn things around quickly.
I won’t say it’s going to be easy, but I will say we are going to get there, whatever it takes. That’s a promise.