Ofsted’s devastating judgement of Croydon’s Child Services department, rating it ‘Inadequate’ – the lowest possible grade – was strongly critical of Council leadership, saying “Poor managerial oversight of cases fails to ensure that basic social work practice is of a good enough standard.”
Now even more damning revelations have come to light, as it has been revealed that the Labour Cabinet Member responsible for the department, Alisa Flemming, received 3 warnings that the service was failing from as early as February 2016 – 19 months before the Ofsted inspection was carried out.
In February 2016 the Chair of the Independent Safeguarding board, Catherine Doran, resigned less than halfway through her term. Her reasons, at the time, were kept secret. Now it has been revealed that she ‘resigned in February 2016 giving as her reasons that neither the then Chief Executive nor the then Executive Director had responded sufficiently to her concerns. Her concerns related to both practice issues and to the lack of performance information.’
The Executive Director and the then Chief Executive of the Council also resigned their posts within four months of Ms Doran leaving.
A month later, in March 2016, an inspection of part of Children’s Services concluded that ‘management oversight at all levels is weak. Supervision is ineffective in the majority of cases seen by inspectors. For some, there were long gaps in the frequency of supervision, and records show a lack of reflection and clarity about actions required in a significant number of cases. This leads to a lack of direction and purposeful work with children, and contributes to unnecessary drift and delay. Senior managers have not created good conditions in which social workers can flourish. A number of social workers told inspectors that they are not clear about what they need to do.’
Finally, the Council carried out its own assessment of Children’s Services, in preparation for an expected Ofsted inspection, in December 2016 – ‘Practice Week’. Practice Week revealed that the service was ‘on the cusp of inadequate’, and, as a Council whistle blower pointed out in the letter seen below, Councillor Flemming was made aware of the findings.
Despite these repeated warnings, it appears the Council did not act. As a result the Children’s Services department, responsible for looking after Croydon’s most vulnerable children, is failing. From July 2015-2017 Councillor Flemming had an attendance record of 28% for the safeguarding board, the key advisers on the performance of the department. Perhaps if she’d attended more, she wouldn’t have missed the multiple warnings – and Croydon’s children would be in better hands.