Warn­ings signs ‘may have been missed by chil­dren’s ser­vices’

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS -

A “RE­LA­TION­SHIP break­down” may have lead to warn­ing signs be­ing missed over fail­ings in Wake­field Coun­cil’s un­der-fire chil­dren’s ser­vices de­part­ment. a meet­ing was told.

The in­de­pen­dent chair of the Wake­field district’s Safe­guard­ing Chil­dren Board, which unites all lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved in pro­tect­ing young­sters, has crit­i­cised for­mer coun­cil of­fi­cers for not in­form­ing her fully about is­sues in the de­part­ment.

Of­sted rated the coun­cil’s ser­vice for vul­ner­a­ble young­sters ‘in­ad­e­quate’ in July, af­ter high­light­ing a litany of fail­ures.

But speak­ing at a chil­dren’s scrutiny com­mit­tee, Ed­wina Har­ri­son said she’d “re­flected” on how warn­ing signs had not come to her at­ten­tion sooner. How­ever, she did not name any of the peo­ple she claimed to have fallen out with.

Ms Har­ri­son said: “I’ve looked back on the things I said and did at the time (be­fore Of­sted vis­ited).

“It’s fair to say there was a sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ship break­down with peo­ple who I’d asked for in­for­ma­tion, and pre­vi­ously I’d have ex­pected a re­sponse from them.

“I did take the op­por­tu­nity to speak to Of­sted back in Fe­bru­ary and that caused dif­fi­cul­ties, but I felt I had to do that.

“It’s been a dif­fi­cult pe­riod for every­body, in­clud­ing my­self.

Ms Har­ri­son said it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to give fur­ther de­tails be­cause the sit­u­a­tion had changed since a new cor­po­rate di­rec­tor for chil­dren and young peo­ple, Beate Wag­ner, was ap­pointed in March.

She added that the peo­ple she was talk­ing about no longer worked at the coun­cil.

Coun Kevin Swift said that the rev­e­la­tions prompted fur­ther is­sues for the coun­cil and how its ac­tiv­i­ties are scru­ti­nised.

He said: “On the huge ques­tion of, ‘How the hell did we end up in this sit­u­a­tion with­out any­body see­ing it com­ing?’, I’m a bit wor­ried about what you’ve said.

“I un­der­stand what you’re say­ing, but we’re be­ing asked to trust ev­ery­thing on the ba­sis that some­one some­where is get­ting it right, but that’s what we were be­ing told 12 months ago.”

The chair of the com­mit­tee, Coun David Jones, said that elected mem­bers were now be­ing given bet­ter ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion about chil­dren’s ser­vices than pre­vi­ously, mean­ing its per­for­mance was more trans­par­ent.

A gov­ern­ment com­mis­sioner who is cur­rently in­spect­ing the ser­vice will pub­lish a re­port later this month which could see the de­part­ment taken out of the coun­cil’s hands.

From top, Julie Kennedy, CBE, chair of the Went­worth Wood­house Preser­va­tion Trust in an un­der­ground pas­sage and stand­ing in front of the stately home; Sarah McLead, CEO of the Trust, in the Pi­azza Court; a dec­o­ra­tive ceil­ing in the Van Dyck Room.

Said that there had been a sig­nif­i­cant re­la­tion­ship break­down.

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