08:23 Tuesday 15th November 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Peterborough city councillors met last night to discuss a thirty three point action plan designed to rescue their ailing Children’s Services department. Last week a report from OFSTED said the Department was performing poorly. It follows another critical report in September which led to the resignation of the Department’s Director John Richards. .. We can now talk to Adrian Loades. He’s the new Director of Children’s Services at the city council. Morning.
ADRIAN LOADES: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Wouldn’t want your job.
ADRIAN LOADES: Thank you. Well clearly it’s a busy time, and you’ll be aware that I am currently on secondment from Cambridgeshire, working in Peterborough. So I’m coming to the end of that assignment in the next fortnight.
PAUL STAINTON: What a mess you’ve got to sort out Adrian, eh?
ADRIAN LOADES: Well I think .. clearly there are some big challenges. But I think the most important thing, there is nothing about Peterborough, there is nothing about the needs in Peterborough, that we cannot fix, in terms of improving the Children’s Social Care Team.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you got enough time to sort all this mess out? You say you’re doing two jobs, effectively. Have you got time for us?
ADRIAN LOADES: Well I’m going to be followed, at the end of the month, subject to councillor approval, by a very experienced Director of Children’s Services, and he and I are in constant contact, in terms of handover arrangements. I think we’ve made good progress over the last three months. We’ve ben able to have a more fundamental look at the underlying issues, to address some of the things that Sheila raised, in terms of the impact of a high turnover of staff, for example.
PAUL STAINTON: Some of the things? Thirty three things Adrian. That’s a lot of things to address, isn’t it?
ADRIAN LOADES: Well it’s a lot of things to address. And we’re talking about this improvement plan lasting around eighteen months. So this isn’t about quick fixes. This is about a long and sustainable progress around improvement. But yes, there are some very big challenges that we need to turn around. But again, this situation isn’t unique in some local authorities. And this situation can definitely be fixed.
PAUL STAINTON: What, incompetence is rife is it throughout?
ADRIAN LOADES: I don’t think it’s a matter of incompetence. I think what we found is that in some instances, practice, social work practice, is too variable. We’ve got some very good practice, but equally there’s been some poor practice in some instances.
PAUL STAINTON: Some of these things are just obvious, aren’t they? For example, “ensure that management accountabilities for decision making are explicitly defined, so that actions are clear and consistently implemented.” In other words, keep it simple and talk to people. And they weren’t doing that.
ADRIAN LOADES: It is keeping it simple. But it’s also being very clear as to when cases should be escalated to managers, when managers should be undertaking supervisions. Now all of that is happening, but in some instances it’s just a little bit confused, and it’s not consistent enough , in terms of one approach across the whole of Children’s Social Care.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you ever seen a department in such a mess before?
ADRIAN LOADES: I’ve not been involved in this sort of situation personally. But I think it’s fair to say that there are a number of local authorities that encountered these sorts of problems. And as Sheila said, if some of the basics aren’t in place, if things go wrong, if there’s a high turnover of staff, things can slip away.
PAUL STAINTON: Who’s fault is it that the basics weren’t in place, Adrian, do you think?
ADRIAN LOADES: I think it’s vary difficult to talk about fault in thsi consequence. Because I think we’ve seen ..
PAUL STAINTON: I think the people of Peterborough would like to know.
ADRIAN LOADES: And I can completely understand that. But I think we’ve seen a significantly high turnover of staff over a period of years. And that makes actually putting those basics into place very difficult.
PAUL STAINTON: Are children still at risk, Adrian?
ADRIAN LOADES: No. Or at the moment we are in a period of high risk, and we’re taking some short term measures, while we look to secure our long term improvement, in terms of increasing our capacity, in terms of some quick fixes to reduce risk.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you confident it can be turned round? We all want it turned round.
ADRIAN LOADES: I am confident it will turn round. I’ve been very impressed by some of the people that are involved in Children’s Services in Peterborough. And I am confident this can be turned round. But we are talking about a long term exercise. This isn’t something that can be done overnight.
PAUL STAINTON: Well thank you for your help at the moment with turning that round. And hopefully it will turn around in the medium term. And we look forward to the new person coming in in about a month’s time, as Adrian goes back to Cambridgeshire.