Cllr Les Lawrence, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families on Birmingham City Council, responds to the call on this site yesterday that he should resign following a scrutiny report.
It would, of course, be too much to ask that Harry Phibbs first check the background and context before jumping to judgement and making public comment.
Upon taking responsibility for Children's Social Care just over 25 months ago after splitting it from Adult Social Services a number of issues began to immerge which would require long term actions to overcome.
To achieve this turnaround changes were required not only in the Local Authority but the Police, NHS and many communities across the City. After considerable initial work with some changes being made it was agreed in January this year we set up a Task Force to ensure corporate ownership of the issues and a cross party scrutiny group, the latter to forensically examine every aspect of the service. I wanted this to have access to all information, service detail and staff to ask whatever they wanted and to visit any part of the service and speak to staff at all levels. The Task Force also included a representative of the West Midlands Government Office who reported regularly to the DCSF.
This work has been essential to ensure that we create a service we can all be confident in.
In parallel to these two processes we put in new HR Support, increased the senior management capacity and capability together with a complete strengthening of all middle and frontline management and supervisory functions.
Further we have now developed a performance management framework together with a clear and consistent case reporting and recording system. Staff at all levels, are now clear as to what they are expected to do, their responsibilities and accountabilities.
The working accommodation is also being improved with a number of teams moving to brand new facilities shortly thus improving the working environment for a large number of staff.
We now also have joint working arrangement in place with the police together with improved information sharing including the NHS.
We are also bringing significant services changes and developments in regards to early intervention and prevention, fostering service, children's homes etc
These together with other ongoing changes resulted in a letter from the DCSF recognizing the improvements being made but agreeing with us that there was still a great deal to do.
The work of the scrutiny group which had been ongoing for eight months was published yesterday an action I believe, if we are to achieve the fundamental long term sustainable improvement, was essential to enable all aspects past and present to be in the public domain. The report also recognized that we had already many changes to the various aspects that they were raising.
All of this will allow considerable scrutiny of the changes that have been, are being and still need to be made can not only be seen to be done but can be measured in terms of the beneficial outcomes that accrue.
We have 24000 children in need, 2400 children in care and 1400 children with a protection plan. We also have many dedicated, experienced and valued frontline children's social care staff who are supportive of the approach we have taken.
This service is but one part of the overall Children's Service to the 260,000 plus Children and Young People in this City.
We will be auditing progress over the next two months and again in Jan/Feb 2010. The press are also interested in understanding what it is like on the frontline working with some of the most challenging families, a process that has already started.
One area we still need to tackle is raising awareness in all our communities as to their role and responsibility in safeguarding children and how they can raise concerns.
Today we have received many positive comments for having the guts to undertake all of this in the public spotlight.
Perhaps your time would be better spent encouraging more openness and transparency in all that we do in both Local and Central Government together with supporting those who have the courage to do it.
Lastly, today the press have been very interested in understanding what changes have been undertaken, are being undertaken and what needs to be done. This in my view strengthens the process we have undertaken thereby building trust, confidence and integrity in a vital set of public services.
I have much work to do, together with colleagues across the whole of the City Council in providing the strategic direction for Children's Services and ensuring we have high quality, motivated and supported staff valued for the work they do.